It was official. Notwithstanding the continued support they had offered through the many years prior, the UCI had now reversed their stance and upheld the verdict of the USADA. The name of Lance Edward Armstrong had forever been wiped from the annals of the sport. The hero had fallen.
For me, growing up, Armstrong’s name was as synonymous with cycling as Schumacher’s was with Formula 1. Every tour victory saw his iconic status rise to unprecedented heights, but the cloak of doubt that shrouded his legacy also grew thicker. Even after he had retired, returned, and retired again, with his name seemingly set in stone alongside the all-time greatest sporting heroes, the vultures would not stop circling. And then it happened.
Yes, he did win those tours, dope cheat or not. 3200 kilometers over 23 days, a staggering 7 times. And he wasn’t the only one trying to bend the rules, the entire sport was mired in this dark business (quoting from an article in the Huffington Post – “It is impossible to erase what really happened. Lance Armstrong won those seven races. In the rewrite of Armstrong’s records the sport of cycling would have you believe they are punishing the perfidy of their greatest rider, while what they really want is for the world to forget their own”). And that he survived life-threatening cancer before all this makes his accomplishments all the more remarkable.
Maybe there was an unselfish motive behind that win-at-all-costs approach. Maybe he just wanted to be a part of a story that would inspire millions and contribute to the fundraising work of his foundation in a major way.
But then he should have admitted his guilt. Accepting the charges, announcing his regret and continuing with the other important chapter in his life might have been a much better alternative, compared to getting into a fight he was bound to lose. Had he done that, he could have retained the respect of the many that stood by him through the years. He could also have avoided the irony of his name being associated with the foundation in a negative and deterring way, the exact opposite of what he must have originally intended.
And more importantly for me, he would have still been my hero.