Former Hampstead resident and professional cyclist Brian Walton described his reaction as "bittersweet" to all the recent news concerning Lance Armstrong giving up his fight against doping charges and the subsequent stripping of Armstrong's seven Tour de France titles.

"We were teammates back in '92. He was young and talented with a lot of potential," said Walton, a member of Team Motorola in 1991 and 1992.

Walton watched with the rest of the sports world as Armstrong went from that young athlete filled with potential to the most successful American cyclist in history and an inspirational figure in the fight against cancer.

But Armstrong's achievements are now stained to all but his most ardent supporters.

"He pulled the wool over many people's eyes," Walton said. "It is very disappointing."

Early in Walton's 12-year professional cycling career, he says he chose to exit the racing scene in Europe and race the U.S. pro circuit because of the unethical behavior taking place overseas.

"There were tons of rumors and innuendo. Did I see any doping? No, I didn't see doping," Walton said. "However, I ate, slept, lived and breathed cycling 24 hours a day and was told it's not everything."

Walton said his decision not to partake in doping played in his head for the first few years.

"I had a long philosophical discussion with myself," he recalled.

In referencing what he described as his drug-free career, Walton said, "I won races in Europe clean. I beat Miguel Indurain in a time trial."

After Indurian's defeat at time trial at the Tour of Pays Basque in 1991, he would go on to win five consecutive Tour de France titles from 1991-95. Walton jokes that he was the reason Indurian went on to not lose a time trial for many years.

With Armstrong only the latest in a group of disgraced cyclists that also includes American Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, Walton was asked if Armstrong's penalties would tarnish the sport even more. Walton responded with a firm no.

"I did potentially for a little while," he said, "but cycling is the most heavily tested sport."

Walton added that "if Major League Baseball had the same policy, there wouldn't be many teams."

He also said that because sports such as professional football have so much money invested in them, less restricting drug policies result.

Still Walton, a 1996 Olympic silver medalist from Team Canada, remains positive about the future of his sport. He said he believes eventually doping can be removed from cycling through more and more tests.

As a current cycling coach and owner of Walton Endurance, Walton said he believes competing clean is the only way to compete.

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