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).
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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Stop being so naive.Lance Armstrong CLEARLY used PEDs to win 7 straight TOUR DE FRANCE.It was either that or get beaten by those who were using performance enhancers.And the whole “I never failed a drug test” argument was obliterated by Marion Jones,who ALSO NEVER FAILED A TEST.C’mon man,give me a break.Lance is and has always been a fraud.I guess yo uthink Roger Clemens never used steroids,too?
It must be very stressful having to lie year after year about something you know you did.Remember P
A few things.
First, are you really calling ME naiive? Me, famous for telling the truth that NO ONE ELSE will? Trust me, there is nothing “naiive” about my comments.
Second, did I at any point state a belief that he did – or did not – use steroids or other performance enhancers? No, NOT ONCE. The article was not about his innoncence, although just SIX MONTHS AGO a U.S. FBI investigation concluded he was INNOCENT.
Moreover, he has not failed a single one of the 500 tests you mention; and last I loooked, you are innocent until proven guilty in this country – ESPECIALLY when 500 attempts to prove your guilt have failed.
Of course the odds are he did. But then again, EVERYONE else does them too, and the accusations – by the way – regarding ONLY 1999 activities. Heck, many of the racers that would inherit his TDF crowns have also been kicked out of cycling, so who are you going to give them to?
The point of the RANT was not about steroids, but the malicious, misguided U.S. government, which destroyed Lance’s life despite having ZERO jurisdiction in this case.
Geez, the international cycling federation (or whatever they call it) disagrees, and likely will fight the U.S. government funded USADA on this. It would be like the NCAA trying to kick NBA players out of the NBA!
More importantly, I am hoping you don’t have a child with cancer. But if you do, I’ll bet the quality of his or her life is vastly better due to the philanthropic – and INSPIRATIONAL – efforts of Lance Armstrong, who has perhaps contributed more to empowering cancer victims than anyone on the planet.
P.S. I will not debate this topic any longer. I already spent two hours writing that RANT, and another 15 minutes replying to this message.
I love your blog and have learned much from you,especially about gold and silver.I just don’t think Lance is a hero.The use of drugs is so widespread in sports now that its hard to embrace human performance in any competitive arena.
I apologize for the tone of my response.I have a great deal of respect for you and all the good folks at Miles!
No problem at all – and for the record, not once did I speak of his cycling accomplishments (or frauds).
The entire article was what he has done for cancer philanthropy, but particularly, inspiring children with cancer.
In that manner, there is no disputing his heroism.
I agree with you.In fact,I wear one of his yellow LIVE STRONG bracelets for my Dad, who had mouth cancer some years back.He has since recovered and I still wear it.I just think Lance’s cycling achievements are questionable if not outright dubious.Beyond that,I respect his philanthropy.
To conclude my comments:Remember Pete Rose?Eventually Lance will also have a mea culpa moment when the burden of deception becomes too great.How he can live with his lies for so long defies explanation.Regardless,He is no hero.
I replied to this part in my last comments.
Thanks Andy for this article, given that I’m a fan of both you and Lance.
How exactly does one pass over FIVE HUNDRED doping tests only to be found guilty? Wouldn’t his accusers need to show exactly HOW you foil a test?
What’s the exact benefit of tearing down an American hero given all the other problems we could be focusing on?
Disapointing article Andy.
Armstrong’s cheating is just one more example of the rotten culture that we have become.
Just because he has not tested positive, doesn’t mean he hasn’t cheated by using PEDs.
Just because the banks and the Fed haven’t been convicted of a crime doesn’t mean they aren’t manipulating markets, currencies, and PMs.
Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. In order to get to the top of these dirty professions and industries, you need to cheat, steal, and lie. This is life in the world we live in today, Armstong is no exception.
I am not disputing the decline of culture, and in fact, not once defend his innocence (other than the fact he has NEVER failed a drug test).
The article, however, was NOT about his guilt or innocence, but how the U.S. government took down one of the nation’s few remaining heroes – more so for his cancer awareness and inspiration than even his bike riding.
Please read the more detailed response I just wrote to Scott (on the blog, and in Thursday’s RANT) to get my true point. I am as fair a person as you’ll find, and spent a good two hours writing that article.
Here’s yet another big problem I have with L.A. Let’s assume for the moment that he is/was completely clean. Now then, would any of his supporters like to explain to me (1) how he was completely oblivious to what was obviously going on around him, and, because I’d bet my life that he knew all about the rampant doping occurring in cycling at the time, (2) why he therefore did not come forward as a purported responsible individual and a team leader and tell the public about this HUGE problem that existed in his sport. His failure to even issue one little hint & to withhold the truth as to what was going on makes him complicit; and exposes him as a fraud, a cheat, and a liar.
For one, you are asking him to out not only himself (despite having not failed a drug test), but all of his colleagues and peers? And be despised by everyone he knows? That would be like me coming out publicly and saying that not only am I a fraud (though there is no evidence of such), but Miles Franklin and all bullion dealers are frauds.
Secondly, at no time in that RANT did I profess his innocence, or even praise his cycling accomplishments. The article is about the U.S. government meddling in affairs it has no stake in, and – worse yet – taking down perhaps the greatest Cancer philantrophist in this nation; let alone, the single most inspirational figure in the WORLD to children with cancer.