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I have been an avid cyclist for 30 years, with my first memories of riding going back to a lengthy paper route at age 12.  Better yet, at age 15, I had a girlfriend in Massapequa (Long Island), several years after I had moved to Syosset.  She lived 45 minutes away by bicycle, so when my parents couldn’t drive me, I did my best Lance Armstrong impression to get her house – on dozens of occasions.  Lance Armstrong wasn’t Lance Armstrong yet, but I certainly possessed his fierce determination, and love of the road.

In many ways, Lance Armstrong represents all that’s good in mankind.  He’s far from perfect, but his journey from a poor, broken home in Plano, Texas, to near death via testicular, lung, and brain cancer, to winning seven straight Tour de France titles, is nearly mythical.  Moreover, he has not only become a GLOBAL diplomat for the sport, but a symbol of America’s greatness – at least, what’s left of it.  Lance achieved his accomplishments with a rare grace and humility, using his fame to become one of the world’s great philanthropists, and – more importantly – inspirational leader for youths afflicted with the world’s most deadly disease.

In his 2000 book – It’s Not About the Bike – My Journey Back to Life – which I proudly display on my book shelf, Armstrong’s biographer writes of Armstrong’s extraordinary lung capacity, likely the primary source of his dominance.  That and – oh yeah – the competitive fire of Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods, combined with the inner strength developed from winning a personal war with mortality…

In 1987, when he was sixteen, Armstrong turned professional in the triathlon.  Because of his amazing success, he was invited to be tested by the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research in Houston, Texas.  Researchers measured the amount of oxygen his lungs consumed during exercise, and discovered he truly was a phenomenon:  Armstrong’s oxygen levels were the highest the clinic ever recorded, which meant his lung capacity – so critical for endurance – made him a natural athlete.

Armstrong was always a maniacal athlete, having been ranked the nation’s #1 triathlete in the under-19 age category, a decade before his first Tour de France win.  In fact, his initial love was not cycling, but swimming – another sport requiring extraordinary mental and physical skill.  Not only that, at age 36, he ran the New York marathon in 2:46:43, a time less than 3% of ALL marathon runners have ever achieved.  The man is a marvel of strength, endurance, and determination – so for those trying to link his success solely to doping, please do some due diligence.

Which brings me to the theme of today’s RANT, “NEW LOW FOR AMERICA.”  As sports enthusiasts are aware, cycling has in recent years been ravaged by rampant use of illegal, performance-enhancing drugs – as was the case with Major League Baseball.  Unlike baseball – where such drugs were NOT illegal when they boosted players like Barry Bonds, Marc McGwire, and Roger Clemens from mere stars to LEGENDS – “doping” has ALWAYS been illegal in cycling.

However, detecting such drugs can be very difficult when administered by doctors and other neurochemical experts – with the practice constantly mutating to avoid censure, under the tutelage of “mad scientists” like Victor Conte of BALCO Labs in California.  Consequently, the list of cycling “doping” cases goes back a century, with several other Tour de France winners either stripped of their titles or retroactively banned, such as Jan Ullrich (1997) and Floyd Landis (2006).  Heck, Alberto Contador – who won the tour in 2007 and 2009 – also won in 2010, but subsequently had that title stripped due to a positive drug test…

List of doping cases in cycling

Frankly, I haven’t watched a bicycle race in many years, as the sport has been destroyed by illegal drugs.  However, the fact remains, Lance Armstrong has NEVER failed a drug test.  Vilified by competitors for winning so frequently – particularly Europeans, who believe cycling is their sport – Lance has been subjected to hundreds of tests, countless accusations, and even a Federal investigation into the 1999 Tour de France, in which he was CLEARED OF ALL CHARGES just six months ago

Lance Armstrong cleared of doping charges

But that wasn’t good enough for the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) – a supposed “non-profit” agency.  It pretends to be independent of the government, but is recognized by Congress as the “official anti-doping agency of Olympic, Pan American, and Paralympic sport in the United States.  Better yet, this “non-government agency” is partly funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (a government agency), with its remaining budget from contracts for anti-doping services with sport organizations, most notably the United States Olympic Committee (another government agency).

And thus, thanks to U.S. government meddling into cycling – with TAXPAYER DOLLARS – one of the nation’s greatest heroes is being stripped of his accomplishments, and publicly disgraced…

USADA strips Lance Armstrong’s titles, bans him from cycling

…without a shred of hard PROOF of his supposed deeds.  In fact, the International Cycling Union (ICU) – the governing body for the cycling industry – is not questioning Armstrong’s innocence at all.  To the contrary, they are arguing the USADA doesn’t have the jurisdiction to reverse cycling industry results, particularly as it hasn’t even supplied hard evidence of failed drug tests…

Comment: USADA must still prove doping charges against Lance Armstrong

Instead, it has provided the same innuendo and circumstantial evidence put forward for a decade, as well as hearsay from ADMITTED cheats such as Tyler Hamilton, a long-time Armstrong teammate and 2004 Athens gold medalist, recently stripped of his medal for doping.  Whether Hamilton has a personal vendetta against Armstrong for having to play ”second fiddle” for many years is immaterial to the moronic USADA; as long as they have a “rat” – supplying ZERO proof – they think they have the right to destroy someone’s life…

Lance Armstrong accuser, Tyler Hamilton, stripped of Olympic gold medal

In the big picture, this “quasi-government agency” is attempting to rewrite history, focused solely on ambiguous tests from 1999 that have been – on multiple occasions – disqualified as definitive evidence.  Not only that, they are ignoring the fact that doping has been as widespread in cycling as it was in baseball – to the point that, even if it could “prove” Armstrong’s guilt, the titles (and prize money) would just as likely be given to someone else with a history of doping, such as the aforementioned Jan Ullrich (three time runner up, currently banned for life from cycling) and Ivan Basso (one time runner up, suspended from cycling in 2007-08 for admitted doping).

How Did Armstrong Get Busted?

Lance Armstrong may be exonerated yet, as the USADA must still PROVE his doping – but in the meantime, his legacy has been shattered by the U.S. GOVERNMENT, which each day becomes more of a blight on international society.  By the way, Armstrong could have kept fighting for his honor, but after a decade of relentless attacks that have significantly destroyed his personal life, he decided it was best to walk away with his sanity.

I hope with all my might that the USADA fails to do so, reinstating his Tour de France titles and upholding his true legacy, of a great MAN and inspiration leader.  Sadly, this “NEW LOW FOR AMERICA” is likely to be challenged by further degradations in the coming years; likely, in far more important – and destructive –  areas than cycling.


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