What do we make of the inspirational Lance Armstrong now?

Lance Amstrong was once an American hero. Is he still. (AP photo)

The great Lance Armstrong was once an American hero. Question is, is he still? (AP photo)

Lance Armstrong was more than a guy on a bike. Indeed, he titled his as-told-to autobiography, “It’s Not About the Bike.” And he wasn’t  just a guy who had cancer and lived to tell the tale. He was an inspiration, a role model, an object lesson regarding the power of the human will.

He beat testicular cancer and didn’t just go on with his life. He became bigger than life. He won the Tour de France seven years running. He was named Sports Illustrated’s 2002 sportsman of the year and took multiple ESPYs as the male athlete of the year. Above and beyond all that, he was the guy who gave us the yellow bracelets, the ones bearing the name of his foundation — Livestrong.

And now he stands revealed as … what? A craven cheat? The hypocrite of all hypocrites? The guy who swore his innocence right up until the point where he decided to stop swearing?

“I am … finished with this nonsense,” was Armstrong’s rationale for dropping his fight against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which took his words as an admission of guilt and moved to strip him of those seven Tour de France titles. (Though the International Cycling Union is waiting for further information to take action.) The USADA has vacated, to invoke the college sports word, everything Armstrong achieved in his sport from 1998 on.

And we’re left to do … what? To recall all the good will and admiration we directed toward Lance Armstrong all these years? To feel cheated ourselves? To feel — diving deeper here — that this beacon of hope actually was a manifestation of everything we have hoped against hope isn’t true? That the games aren’t rigged, that sports are indeed a measure of character, that the bad guys don’t always (or ever) win?

If we’d been honest with ourselves, we might have wondered if the Livestrong story was the stirring saga it appeared to be. Armstrong was under suspicion even as he was winning those Tours. (This being cycling, everybody is under suspicion.) He would dispute every allegation, but the weight of the whispers began to give some among us pause. But not, I would suggest, the masses.

Most of us still saw Armstrong as a hero. He had cancer and still he became the world’s greatest cyclist. That was the more gripping narrative, and also the more palatable. Reality, alas, tends to get complicated.

Armstrong insists that he has admitted no wrongdoing, that he has simply chosen not to keep fighting the USADA. In a statement, he said this: “USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles. I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours.”

And now we’re again scrambling for purchase on that slippery slope. Did Southern Cal win the 2004 BCS title or not? (The Trojans were stripped of the title owing to sanctions involving Reggie Bush, who has since returned his 2005 Heisman Trophy.) Who’s the real home run king — Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds? We have reason to suspect that Bonds didn’t generate all 762 homers on the up-and-up, but MLB kept letting him play, did it not? And, for further discussion: Should Mark McGwire be in the Hall of Fame? Should Rafael Palmeiro? Should Roger Clemens? And what of A-Rod, who might well hit 763 home runs?

This is a terrible time to be a sports fan. (Last week Melky Cabrera, this week Bartolo Colon and now Armstrong.) For all the joy that’s supposed to come from following these athletes and their trivial pursuits, we keep slamming into chilling truths, or half-truths, or truth laced so heavily with fiction that it’s not true at all. All any of us can know for sure about Lance Armstrong is that the first part of his stirring saga stands: He did beat cancer. Everything afterward is open to interpretation. Everything afterward could well have been a lie.

And all among us who have, over the years, sported those yellow bracelets? We could have shared his lie. Some feel-good story this is turning out to be, huh?

By Mark Bradley

337 comments Add your comment

Yellow Jacket

August 24th, 2012
11:11 am

Bob the Blogger

August 24th, 2012
11:14 am

Who cares; he rides a freakin’ bicycle.

BravesFan79

August 24th, 2012
11:18 am

Hes still the greatest Biker ever! All this money spent on investigating Lance Armstrong by the justice dept / feds… yet theres a backlog of hundreds of thousands of rape kits that remain untested due to lack of funds?? Wouldnt getting violent criminals off the street be a better use of our federal money than going after a man who races a bike? Anti doping agency= FAIL

Paul

August 24th, 2012
11:19 am

Heroes are harder and harder to come by in the 24 hour sports world. Heroes are hard to come by in any venue anymore with so much access and so many prodding and prying eyes.

Shug

August 24th, 2012
11:19 am

Only those in strict denial ever thought the guy was clean. Yes, he joins a rather long list of cheaters (and liars).

Music City Dawg

August 24th, 2012
11:20 am

I am not convinced he cheated. He took test after test after test and PASSED them all. USADA and others have kept after him and kept after and kept after him. When does it all end? How many times does a guy have to pass a drug test and STILL they want to come after you? If their “evidence” is a couple of competitors saying he doped, well where is the scientific proof? It’s in the drup tests that he took and passed. I don’t blame Lance for throwing in the towel. One can only take so much badgering before deciding “this isn’t worth all this and I’m gonna go live my life. Screw them all!” As far as I am concerned, Lance Armstrong won all those race fairly and is the best cyclist of all time!

PMC

August 24th, 2012
11:20 am

A really good cyclist who did a great job of coming back from cancer and doing charity work. As close as it is at the top in cycling, I don’t think it’s realistically possible to dominate a bike race as grueling as the tour de france without cheating.

It’s like all of the baseball guys. He’s very good. One of the best ever, but the cheating skewed his numbers ridiculously.

Miguel Indurain is one of the best ever, He won 3 tours I think. Lance 7. It just doesn’t add up really.

BigC

August 24th, 2012
11:22 am

He has already spent $40 million trying to defend himself. What’s he supposed to do, spend the rest of his life savings? And wat he did, and lost? Then he no reputation AND no money.

Pretty clear, he passed hundreds of tests, he’s innocent, but his lsser talented teammates cheated and got caught then made deals and tried to throw him under the bus.

BigC

August 24th, 2012
11:23 am

He’s got about $100 million left, he should ride into the sunset.

Ben

August 24th, 2012
11:25 am

He passed all the drug tests, and has spent far more time fighting these allegations than he spent fighting cancer. This tells me that petty bureaucrats can be worse than cancer, and I’d be ready to move on with my life, too. He’s got nothing to prove to anyone.

And frankly, even if he was doping, so were most of the people he beat. Still a level playing field in that respect, and he came out on top.

So what do I think of Lance now? Still the greatest, still an inspiration to millions, and still has the right to live his life without all this nonsense hanging over his head.

Also, strangely, I can’t find where the USADA has the authority to strip him of his victories. Doesn’t the Tour de France have the say in who won the Tour de France?

Alan

August 24th, 2012
11:25 am

Hundreds of tests + 0 physical evidence = witchhunt.

Ben

August 24th, 2012
11:26 am

PMC: Indurain won 5 tours. Guess you got your facts wrong, just like the USADA.

SomewhereinGA

August 24th, 2012
11:26 am

Innocent until proven guilty. They have NOT proven him guilty of a damn thing. He has passed every drug test they administered to him! What more can he do? This is just instigated by jealous people that wish they were half the athlete he is.

Verdeville Dawg

August 24th, 2012
11:27 am

I don’t see how anyone could ever have thought he was clean. How could he have dominated a sport where (pretty much) everyone else was doping? Answer: he was doping as well. No way a clean person beats all these other riders who were doping.

WayDog7

August 24th, 2012
11:28 am

It’s a witch hunt pure and simple. If they can’t rely on the tests, all of them passed, what are they to rely on Mark?

Bonds, McGuire, et. al. were never tested, Armstrong was tested hundreds of times. He passed them all. Landis had his title stripped AFTER A FAILED TEST. I don’t pretend to know what the motive is, but it sure feels political. I hope some enterprising journalist can investigate why the USADA continues to pursue something like this so many years later.

Guilty until proven innocent is not the way this country is supposed to work.

johne37179

August 24th, 2012
11:29 am

The anti-doping dopes can do whatever they want. Armstrong is the most tested athlete in history and always came up clean. As far as I’m concerned he won all of those titles fair and square and will always hold them. The ones on drugs here are the US Anti Doping Agency.

GTT

August 24th, 2012
11:29 am

I believe him.

Witch Hunt

August 24th, 2012
11:29 am

Seem to me that there was a vendetta against him. Even the judge who dismissed his case against the USADA wondered why they were pursuing Armstrong with such single minded determination. The FBI investigated him and dropped the charges. The UCI has investigated him so many times throughout his career because of all the many rumblings and the facts are that he never once came up positive for drug use. He even started the blood passport program for cyclists to join in order to further document their attempts at wresting back control of their support from cheats. So if the the world’s best investigative agency cannot make case, the UCI who governs the sport is supporting Armstrong, why would the USADA go after a cyclist who competed and won almost a decade ago? And how in the world did they get all this “new” evidence that supposedly shows he cheated when the FBI couldn’t find any just a few months earlier…. I don’t blame the guy for stepping out. I wonder how much money in legal bills he has suffered. How many times to you have to prove your innocence?? In criminal proceedings there is such a thing as double jeopardy. I in no way condone cheats in sports, but how many times must an athlete be tried before he is determined to be “clean”? In Armstrong’s case, apparently several dozen or even several hundred… I think his story is still a great one and today’s story in no way diminishes how I feel about what he has accomplished. All the USADA did was succeed in damaging the reputation of a guy who has done a remarkable thing in our fight against cancer. Which is truly more important and has had much more impact on people’s lives than a simple bike race from 10 years ago.

UGADawg83

August 24th, 2012
11:30 am

I always admired Lance Armstrong and still do for his battle against cancer and for returning to his sport after cancer. That said it cycling folks. The sports biggest event is held in France for crying out loud. Why should we care. Meanwhile the SEC starts next week!

Carl

August 24th, 2012
11:30 am

Marion jones never failed a drug test

The sheeple defending him answer these questions

How does a clean rider win races where the runner up was found to have used drugs

Why does a clean rider team up with dirty riders and coaches

George Hincappie who Lance describes as honest testified against him under oath why

UGADawg83

August 24th, 2012
11:31 am

Excuse me I should have said, “it is cycling.” My mind works faster than my fingers.

Hamad Meander

August 24th, 2012
11:32 am

I wish there was a smoking gun in this case where it’s more than “I’ve seen him do it” or his doctor was indicted for doing it. It seems like the entire case was built on testimony, but none on actual evidence of drugs being in his system. That being said, it’s possible that all professional bike riders are doping and they know there is a chance of being caught, but they’d rather take that chance because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t win. Make sense?

sk

August 24th, 2012
11:32 am

You guys do understand there is a good chance he got testicular cancer because he was using megadoses of testosterone? He beat a self drug induced cancer- not my kind of hero

Lon Stotts

August 24th, 2012
11:33 am

I just want to know who out of the USADA or the general public feels vindicated by an outcome like this? Was it really necessary to pump all the requisite funding and effort into showing that Armstrong was a fraud so we could say “toldja so”? The assumption in cycling seems to be guilty until proven innocent at the current rate we are seeing Tour winners stripped of their titles, so it still doesn’t change much. The guy was a hero to millions, maybe he’s a jerk, maybe he’s a cheat, but none of it changes the fact that he competed at the highest level (without or without artificial enhancements) for a sustained period after coming back from the brink of death.

Even if he was doping, that still is an awfully impressive feat, and I don’t doubt that it required a superhuman dose of willpower to boot.

WayDog7

August 24th, 2012
11:34 am

It’s sad that so many people believe that just because he was dominate that he had to be doping. That’s exactly what all the doping, especially in baseball, has brought us to. If you dominate your sport, “you must be doping”. That’s no attitude to have but I understand how and why it’s happened.

Hamad Meander

August 24th, 2012
11:34 am

Carl – is that true that Marion Jones never tested postitive? How are they able to avoid detection and still keep the performance enhancing drugs flowing. And where can I get some of these drugs……just asking…….

Daniel

August 24th, 2012
11:34 am

Excellent article Mark. There are truly less and less “heroes” in this 24 hour sports cycle we currently live in. Armstrong had a means through his inspirational survival of cancer to touch the lives of everyone affected by the harsh disease. It’s truly a shame that even he fell to the hypocrisy and pressures to perform of today’s society. Selfishly as an Atlantan born and raised, I can only hope that the hero of my generation, Chipper Jones, did in fact play the game clean. His game obviously didn’t predicate off of the long ball and Chipper wasn’t necessarily the shining star of durability but at the same time, one can only hope…

Ostrich Racer

August 24th, 2012
11:40 am

He fought tooth and nail to keep the arbitration from going forward, even going so far as to sue in the U.S. District Court in Austin. That court just ruled that, yes, the USADA does have authority to consider the matter and impose sanctions. When all attempts to avoid a public airing of the evidence failed, Armstrong basically pled “no contest.”

It’s not “innocent until proven guilty” — it’s “presumed innocent until proven guilty.” The USADA brought very serious charges, and he has decided, ultimately, not to contest them. Presumption removed.

Dawgdad (The Original)

August 24th, 2012
11:43 am

Whatever, you are one sick dude!

As far as Armstrong, he was chasing the money. Too much money in sports, too hard to resist for many of these athletes. They know, at a very young age, how miserable it is at times, to have to pull the 9-5 for 40 years and retire on a hope of getting some Soc Sec.

But, is riding a bike a sport to begin with, ranks right up there with twirling the ribbon on the stick or synchronized swimming. From the list of cheaters, biking seems to have a lot in common with boxing.

Rob Wooley

August 24th, 2012
11:43 am

Armstrong was fabulous in Le Tour. He passed all the tests the French could throw at him — and remember they hated him then, as now. He was the best of his time and place. He excelled over many, many years. And if you watched any of the Tours he won in detail, you’d realize much of it was due to preparation, preparation, preparation. Lance showed up in shape (unlike Ullrich). He’d ridden the routes. Bruyneel is a master at assembling a team and planning strategy. And, oh yes, Lance did have outright luck on various occasions when accidents occurred or could have occurred. One of the all-time great athletes and competitors in any sport.

Ostrich Racer

August 24th, 2012
11:44 am

Hamad — Marion Jones got hers from the same guy as Barry Bonds, Victor Conte. Read the excellent “Game of Shadows” for details.

Matt

August 24th, 2012
11:50 am

What do you mean what do I make of it? He’s never failed a drug test, has been retired for 5 years and is tired of going through the BS so he’s said he’s done. Am I supposed to believe that he should continue to bend over??? He’s already passed drug tests, what more do you want??

And yes USC won the 2005 NC. How did the fact that Reggie’s mom got a house affect that game? Reggie Bush was the best player in college football regardless of whether he got a car or not!!

Baseball and steroids is different. These guys inflated their stats because of what they were illegally taking. ANyone who doesn’t think Bonds took steroids is a moron. You don’t throw on 40 pounds of bulk in one off season by working out really hard, I don’t care who you are. The legal system today is not about provign innocence or guilt, it’s about getting evidence thrown out of court, it’s about playing the system and technicalities. Good grief, Braun was cleared because someone didn’t follow protocol not because his pee turned up clean!!!!

Lance had enough and was tired of it. Taking his trophies away doesn’t mean he didn’t win.

just some guy who used PEDs

August 24th, 2012
11:50 am

He beat testicular cancer and didn’t just go on with his life. He became bigger than life. He won the Tour de France seven years running. He was named Sports Illustrated’s 2002 sportsman of the year and took multiple ESPYs as the male athlete of the year. Above and beyond all that, he was the guy who gave us the yellow bracelets, the ones bearing the name of his foundation — Livestrong. – so what? so what? so what? I never venerated him, or disparaged him (as an athlete). he beat cancer? well, maybe with the help of lots of drugs (and that’s OK). this story says more about America’s sick cult of celebrity (and personal ‘for profit’ branding), and the duplicity of the many athletic governing bodies (from the NCAA to MLB, to the USADA/Cylcling Federation).

Vain Jangling

August 24th, 2012
11:51 am

I love professional cycling, but it’s the sport that eats its young. At least now the French can be happy. Crepe eating b@stards.

Boise Dawg

August 24th, 2012
11:51 am

All sports at the highest level are inherently dirty. You don’t get to that level without trying to take advantage of every available way to make yourself a better athlete….. MLB, NFL no different than cycling, only a lot fewer athletes get caught because the testing isn’t nearly as stringent.

If the NFL signed onto WADA and had an independent agency conducting all the testing, I guarantee you would see a lot more positive drug tests.

The difference is MLB and the NFL get to police (protect) themselves and they have strong players unions that help protect the athletes. Cycling is bound to WADA and the cyclists have no union protection whatsoever. This whole thing with USADA and Lance is a perfect example of why it will remain that way and you will never see the NFL or MLB sign onto the World Anti-Doping Code.

Agencies like WADA and USADA have destroyed the sport of cycling. Make no mistake, I think Lance did dope and maybe he is getting what he deserves, but for all the testing that takes place in cycling, I don’t think the sport is any cleaner today than it was 10 years ago. Despite the risks, athletes will continue to cheat at all costs. There is just too much money and ego at the top of all professional sports.

gttim

August 24th, 2012
11:51 am

Filippo Simeoni is smiling today! And if you do not know that name, or what the thug Lance did to him, because he had the temerity to accuse a dirty doctor of being involved in doping, you should Google him and read up!

Carl

August 24th, 2012
11:52 am

While I think he is a cheater and despise him if he was beating dirty riders he was great just like bonds bolt . I just wish people would quit with the hero worship. I love watching Usain Bolt an Barry Bonds but my head aint in the sand

Jim Caffee

August 24th, 2012
11:56 am

Consider this. The Justice Department just wasted more $ than any ____ of us will pay in taxes over our entire lifetimse. How does that make you feel about government waste?

Live Strong

August 24th, 2012
11:57 am

USADA should be stripped of everything. They are a waste of our time and money and this has been a witch hunt as so many others have expressed. USADA is a JOKE…

Where's The Justice

August 24th, 2012
11:57 am

Mark it would be nice to see how you would hold up against continual persecution year after year if there was no proof/evidence that you were guilty yet a group of zealouts backed by our government could continue to pursue you after all other courts have deemed you innocent. No proof, just jealous and failed competitors and teammates allowing the unprovable to continue. Why don’t they strip all the baseball records and career stats from the steriod monkeys that were caught. Oh no we can’t do that they just won’t make it into the HOF because they cheated, that’s penalty enough? What a bunch of BS. I don’t blame him for throwing in the towel. This pseudo subversive organization run by ego manics will pursue this till he dies and then just strip him of all his titles after he is planted. To take that a step further this so called organization is claiming they are doing on behalf of the people – who really could give a rat’s @$$ about less about whether he doped or not. I believe the people would rather have the millions they are funneling to their lawyers go toward the failing economy. Lance is/was a great story – he was an athlete who used his name and money to support and bring hope to cancer patients worldwide. From the evidence presented that is tangible (i.e. drug tests) he passed them all. If he was doping, which again has not been proved, while all the other major contenders in cycling were and got caught, he still is a hell of alot better than them because he beat them year after year. Which of our major sport athletes did the same? Welcome to the new world order where government can randomly persecute individuals as examples whether guilty or not. What happened to innocent until proven guilty. Better wake up come November. Simply a harbinger of more persecution to follow as government becomes larger by the day. Maybe they’ll come after you when they find one of your columns distasteful. That could happen soon. Have a nice day.

Jim Caffee

August 24th, 2012
11:57 am

Consider this. The Justice Department just wasted more $ than any ____ of us will pay in taxes over our entire lifetimes. How does that make you feel about government waste?

B

August 24th, 2012
11:58 am

It’s really disappointing.

SportsTopFan

August 24th, 2012
11:58 am

Sports fans worldwide are devastated over the news that Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his bicycling titles.

Sports Top Fan would like to wish Lance Armstrong good luck in the future.

SportsTopFan@Yahoo.com

MANGLER

August 24th, 2012
12:00 pm

It’s not like he said he was innocent and then was proven guilty. He said he was innocent and passed every test given for a decade. Anyone who’s ever battled in court against a foe with more money and more lawyers knows that sometimes walking away is easier than fighting to the death.

Should he decide one day to admit wrong doing, then that will be different. Until then, he’s what happens when you are the best and other people are jealous about it.

One a side note: I do blame him for making it fashionable for people to wear biking outfits when they do not have the bodies to do it.

Ayn Rand

August 24th, 2012
12:01 pm

Lance Armstrong has gone missing – neighbors report seeing him leave with a tall man wearing a hat and long dark coat.

Ron Burgundy

August 24th, 2012
12:03 pm

Stay Classy Lance!

Carl

August 24th, 2012
12:03 pm

Marion jones never failed a test

Any man who would cheat on his wife is a dishonrable man who would cheat in other ways

Sid

August 24th, 2012
12:04 pm

as many others have noted he passed a gazillion tests in his career so he’s either innocent or the tests are as effective as the tsa’s e-strip search machines in which case it’s a given that everyone does it & it’s a level playing field. if anyone thinks the tests are that reliable fooled but he’s the only one doing it I have a bridge for sale you might be interested in. funny too that holder announces he’s not even going to pretend to prosecute goldman but this guy’s spent millions defending himself over a bike race…

Tap Out

August 24th, 2012
12:04 pm

Barry Bonds passed every MLB steroid test. Like Armstrong, investigators had to re-test a dubious old sample years later to claim a positive result. I personally believe both probably used performance enhancers. I’m still a huge fan of both because I believe most of they’re competition were also juiced.

Rick

August 24th, 2012
12:04 pm

HE HAS NEVER FAILED A TEST! The only DOPES are the people at the USADA.