By now everyone has heard the news that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has stripped Lance Armstrong of his 7 Tour de France titles for doping and the use of performance enhancing drugs, and witnessed the fallout as he has been banned from races and dropped by sponsors. For years as athlete after athlete is found to have cheated to enhance their performance, I’ve always said the only one I would be truly surprised and hurt by would be Lance Armstrong.
When the news first came out that the USADA was stripping him of his titles and Lance was giving up the fight by refusing to contest the ruling in what he deemed an unfair fight, I believed Lance’s PR machine that this was just a witch hunt. He’s never failed a drug test they said, and I echoed. Someone was clearly out to get him and upset that this brash Texan had won France’s and cycling’s greatest race seven straight years after recovering from cancer that nearly killed him.
Then the USADA released their Reasoned Decision. I’m just about done reading the 202-page case against Armstrong and I’m devastated. He cheated. He lied. There is no doubt. It was witnessed – and not just by people with an axe to grind or a deal to cut. There were positive tests. There were not nearly as many tests as he claimed. It was calculated and sophisticated. There was bullying and encouraging of others to participate in and to keep the scandal a secret. If you have time to read even just a few pages of the report you will be stunned by the overwhelming evidence against him.
While some shout “I told you so,” I am just sad. Heartbroken in fact. Did he cheat in some part in the name of a good cause? Yes. Were the vast majority of other cyclists also cheating? Yes. It doesn’t matter and it doesn’t make it better. Lance always claimed to be above the cheating and boasted about conquering cancer and winning cycling’s most grueling race clean while others were cheating. I have looked up to Lance for years as an incredible inspiration. So have many people fighting cancer looking to defy the odds. Turns out it was all based on cheating and lies.
He deserves to have the titles stripped. He deserves to be banned from competition. He deserves to be dropped by sponsors – those companies will certainly find other ways to donate to the fight against cancer. He deserves to lose the Olympic medal.
Lance, I looked up to, respected you and was inspired by you – and you let me down. You let down your fans and more importantly you let down so many people fighting cancer and other diseases who needed to believe in the impossible. What a disappointment!
Truly, too good to be true.