Santa Rosa's Levi Leipheimer said Sunday he's retired from professional cycling, becoming the latest casualty of a massive doping scandal that saw disgraced champion Lance Armstrong banned from the sport for life.
Leipheimer, 39, was a former teammate of Armstrong who, along with 10 other cyclists, cooperated with U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigators in their examination of drug use during Armstrong's reign in the sport.
The five riders who were active at the time received six-month suspensions and had some past results nullified. In the wake of the tumult, George Hincapie retired and Leipheimer was fired by his former team Omega-Pharma-Quick Step. Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriski and Tom Danielson are still riding professionally. All are Americans.
Leipheimer's suspension ended March 1. Despite expressing interest as recently as December in continuing his professional cycling career, no team signed him.
“I'm retired,” he told The Press Democrat Sunday after addressing the crowd gathered in downtown Santa Rosa for the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California. “It's just been an unceremoniously retired.”
The news was met with some resignation among cycling fans Sunday. Enthusiasts praised Leipheimer for raising the profile of cycling locally, and expressed disappointment that his career was ending ignominiously.
“I kind of figured that was going to happen,” said Fred Woods of Castro Valley. “It's kind of sad. I think he's had a good career and he shouldn't have been fired from his team.”
Longtime tour announcer Dave Towle invited Leipheimer to the stage Sunday morning, calling Leipheimer “The King of the Amgen Tour of California,” which he won three times.
“A huge, huge thank you for all you have done,” Towle said, calling Santa Rosa “Bike City U.S.A.”