To me, the question isn’t whether or not Lance Armstrong took anything that helped to “enhance” his performance in winning seven straight Tour de France races. The question is why do the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and various cycling organizations insist on continuing with a witch hunt against the one man who could have helped the sport maintain some relevancy?
The truth is, like most sports, cycling needs the interest and the money of the United States. Cycling needs someone who is the face of the sport, even in retirement, to bring some legitimacy to it’s ranks. Cycling needs an ambassador who not only showed skill and prowess in the sport itself, but has the public admiration because of his past story, and his ongoing philanthropic efforts.
So where is the logic in continually berating and accusing Lance Armstrong?
The statement released by Armstrong, in which he says he is dropping his lawsuit against the USADA and is removing himself from any further discussion about the topic of his alleged doping or cheating, is Lance Armstrong’s unfortunate white flag.
“I give up. Burn me at the stake and be done with it so I can have some peace” is the message sent in the August 23, 2012 statement.
Part of me says “Good for you, Lance! To hell with them!”, while another part of me is saddened that someone of Armstrong’s character and commitment could be beaten down to the point of just giving in and letting himself be branded as others wish to brand him.
So now Armstrong could be stripped of all his titles, and banned from the sport of cycling forever. Congratulations ladies and gentlemen of the USADA, you’ve just managed to drive a stake in the heart of an already struggling sport.
Cycling is not baseball. It’s not a sport that can survive a Mark McGwire–Sammy Sosa type renaissance that was dismantled by similar allegations. Without Lance Armstrong, cycling is just another casual observer sport that will barely receive any media coverage. It’s a tiny blip on the SportsCenter radar, that might get a mention if there is another cheater found.
Other than Floyd Landis–who was also stripped of his title for doping–how many of you can name a recent Tour de France champion, or even if the race actually took place this year?
No matter what happens in the future, there are facts that neither the USADA nor any other organization or agency can change:
Lance Armstrong defeated stage-three testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain, and went on to continue his racing career even when doctors had originally only given him a 40% chance of survival.
After his cancer went into complete remission, Lance Armstrong won seven straight Tour de France races from 1999-2005.
And most importantly, fifteen years ago, Lance Armstrong founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which supports people affected by cancer, and has now become one of the top ten groups funding cancer research in the U.S.
Armstrong wants to continue with his focus on the foundation, and helping those affected by cancer. It’s a shame that the sport of cycling will no longer benefit from being associated with the Lance Armstrong name and legacy.