Well they finally did it. Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour De France titles and has been banned from the sport. The first <i>American</i> to win and subsequently dominate cycling has been shamed. But I still respect and love him.
I have an uncle who is an amatuer cyclist and still races. He used to yammer on about cycling and over the years, we used to go see him compete. But it was not until Lance Armstrong won the first Tour De France did I begin to pay attention. What Armstrong did to brand the sport is unmatched and can not be measured. And after he fought cancer that was spreading through his body and came back, he became larger than life…forget about it…
In theory, I get it. A doping program is illegal and cheating… I do not minimize the feelings and sadness of cyclists. I know that people are disappointed and I can not explain why I am giving him a pass. But I know that I don’t like or appreciate 11 teammates testifying against him. I personally don’t know if he’s lying.
But let’s look at the playing field, shall we. According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, 20 of the 21 riders on the podium in the Tour from 1999 through 2005 have been “directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations” or other means. Further, of the 45 riders on the podium between 1996 and 2010, 36 were by cyclists “similarly tainted by doping.”
So who will hold the records now? You can’t give them to anyone else during those years for the same reasons.
Nike could not have had a stronger ambassador for their slogan. Armstrong was the incarnation of the swoosh. But no more…Armstong has also been dumped by all endorsements.
Despite all of this, you can not wipe away the collective memory of Lance Armstrong from cycling, nor should you. I think the majority will remember him as a cycling champion, but time will tell. Whatever happens, his charity, Live Strong, will be his legacy.
PS I have yet to discuss all of this with my uncle. Not sure how that’s gonna go…