The Reuters global sports blog
Lance Armstrong, a story of doping and deception
Doping and deception: the yellow colour of the Livestrong band will never mean the same thing again to the 80 million Lance Armstrong fans who bought it.
Armstrong’s unprecedented seven consecutive Tour de France victories from 1999 to 2005 depended on lies and illegal behaviour, but what is worse is that the character most people thought they knew has turned out to be someone very different. Character is the most important virtue that sport is supposed to celebrate.
Now he has been banned for life and stripped of his Tour victories. It may not be enough.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in a damning report released on Oct. 12 said that now retired Armstrong led “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”.
The only thing that mattered to him was the winner’s yellow jersey of the Tour de France. The journey, not so much. Armstrong was right with the title of his book, “it wasn’t about the bike” anymore. The body, which had barely survived cancer, was pushed to its limit by a dangerous bouquet of drugs.
He tested positive for corticosteroid in 1999 after winning his maiden Tour title. His doctors quickly got into a huddle and produced a backdated prescription of an ointment for his “saddle sore”.
A year later, he nearly got caught before a race in Spain, when soon after consuming “oil” (testosterone mixed in olive oil), he learned from his tea mate George Hincapie that anti-doping agents were in the hotel to carry out tests. Armstrong pulled out of the race. Later, he went on to win his second Tour title.
He not only doped recklessly, he not only forced his team members to dope; he even had the temerity to feature in an anti-doping ad campaign for Nike. In the ad, he said he was only on ‘his bike’.
It didn’t stop at that. He would initiate a vicious campaign against whoever questioned his dope-laced victories, be it the entire French media, former team mates or even a masseuse.
Perhaps, what finally took the wind out of his sail was the sworn testimony of his most trusted team mate – Hincapie. He was one of the most respected and selfless cyclists of his time, who rode with Armstrong for 11 seasons, including those seven years when he won the yellow jersey. Armstrong wrote in his autobiography that Hincapie and he lived out of the same suitcase for years and knew more about each other than they should.
Hincapie was the only person whom Armstrong didn’t counter attack.
Instead, he realised his years of deception were on their last lap. The final blow came when the UCI president Pat McQuaid said, “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling”.
For having misled the world of sport, millions of fans, a generation of cyclists, millions of cancer patients, millions of people who read his two autobiographies and wore the yellow Livestrong band and his very own family, I’d go a step further – he has no place in sport.
(Lance Armstrong, right, is pictured with former teammate George Hincapie in Visalia, California, at the Tour of California, in May 20, 2010. Reuters photo: Anthony Bolante)