This is one of those ‘funny because it’s true’ situations.
You know how far down the list you got to go to find a cyclist who wasn’t doping?
In 1999, for instance, one has to drop all the way to seventh place finisher Daniele Nardello (now there’s a household name) to find a cyclist who hasn’t be caught doping. Here’s Jeremy Repanich in Vice:
Let’s start with 1999 and work our way forward. We want to find the rider free of drug taint. We don’t want to go crowning a guy then having to take his title away so soon after we did so to Lance. 1999 should be easy compared to following years because Marco Pantani, the ’98 champ, had already faced a drug suspension earlier in the year and skipped the Tour. (Also, he died a few years after when he OD’d on coke and we want our new winners to be alive, so we can give them victory parades through their hometowns—we’re about feel-good stories here.)
It appears second-place finisher Alexander Zülle is our new 1999 champion! But wait. The Swiss cyclist was a member of that tainted Festina team that had just been thrown out of the Tour a year before. He even later admitted that he used drugs, and tested positive. So Zülle is out. I’d name Fernando Escartin the winner, but in 2004 a former teammate spilled the beans about Escartin’s team’s systemic doping, so that’s not a safe pick. In fourth place was Laurent Dufaux, but like Zülle, he was on that Festina team. Ángel Casero, the fifth-place rider, was named in Operacion Puerto, a big investigation into by Spanish police that took down the doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, who provided the doping fix for countless riders. Abraham Olano finished behind Casero, but he was a happy customer of Italian doctor Michele Ferrari (Armstrong was another client), who has been banned by USADA for giving drugs to his athletes. From my research, it looks like Daniele Nardello should be champ because he’s the highest finisher not twisted up in a drug scandal. Congrats, Daniele. Someone should find him and tell him.