“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” For Lance Armstrong, his stock has plummeted so far he can never climb back up.
Sacked by Nike, his seven Tour de France titles stripped from him, the American hero will go down in history as one of sport’s biggest ever frauds.
He has taken the rap, quite rightly, for the culture of serial doping and rampant cheating that plagued cycling in the golden years either side of the millennium.
Furthermore, Armstrong has left the sport almost irreparably tainted. It is damaged goods, and he is now beyond redemption.
What makes matters worse for Armstrong is, that with leading athletes constantly under the spotlight for their successes and regularly accused of doping, he has consistently denied using performance enhancing drugs.
However, the report by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) clearly asserted that Armstrong’s outfits during the “accused” period, US Postal Service Pro Cycling (USPS) and Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, conducted the “most sophisticated, professional and successful doping programme the sport has ever seen”.
Once an inspiration for so many for his fight against testicular cancer, which spread to his brain and lungs in late 1996, Armstrong is now a dirty word, and all the achievements that so enthralled the world are stripped from the record books.
Head onto Wikipedia now and you will see that nobody won the Tour de France between 1999 and 2005. It merely says “vacated”. When cheats prosper, and they are caught, the history books must be rewritten.
Unlike the situation with Juventus in Italy following the Calciopoli match fixing scandal, where runners-up Inter Milan were awarded The Old Lady’s titles, so many people were “at it” in the Armstrong era of domination that a worthy winner cannot be found.
Few have raised their heads above the parapet to defend the 41-year-old, shockingly, as doing so would be almost akin to condoning cheating. But one man, Olympic gold medallist and American cycling coach Jamie Staff, thinks he has been made a scapegoat.
Staff said: “A lot of people have done it, probably everyone in his generation. If you wanted to finish the course you had to jump on board.” His words do have some truth in them, but sadly for Armstrong every sporting catastrophe needs its fall guy.
When a football team is relegated or suffers an embarrassing run of results, the manager is sacked. Even in politics, if a government has failed on a particular policy or been shown up by incompetence there is always, as a line from satirical film In The Loop claims, the need for a “head on a plate”.
Armstrong is that head. He has become such a toxic brand that as well as Nike, even his legendary charitable operations are desperately scrubbing away to remove the stain of his lies and deceit. He has also been dropped by Anheuser-Busch and RadioShack.
His “empire”, as Jordan Schultz put it in the Huffington Post, has come crashing down and served him particularly well over the years. The financial ruination the USADA ruling, which has been supported by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), will be severe.
Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union, has called for Armstrong to be “forgotten” by the world of cycling. There is certainly no way back for the Texan. There are now calls for him to repay all of his Tour prize money.
Having changed his Twitter biography to remove any references to the seven Tour de France titles he fraudulently acquired, Armstrong, banned for life and told he has “no place in cycling”, along with his partners in crime has left the present generation to clean up, quite literally, the mess.
The Armstrong tale was captivating, inspiring, emotional, liberating and truly exhilarating Nothing should be taken away from Armstrong’s battle against cancer, the work he has done and the millions he has helped raise for the charity he founded.
However, it was built on deception and cheating, and soliciting an unfair advantage to get ahead. Armstrong is everything that sport should not be, and for this reason, he is The Armchair Pundits’ first fallen sporting hero.
– Fallen sporting heroes #2 will be published within the next couple of weeks.
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