In the early 2000s, cyclist Lance Armstrong became an icon and a hero. From 1999 to 2005, he won the esteemed Tour de France seven consecutive times, the Super Bowl of cycling that takes place over 23 days in July throughout France.
But it wasn’t solely the victories that propelled Armstrong’s popularity — it was his story. As everyone knows, in 1996, at age 25, Armstrong was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer that had already spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. His doctors told him that his chance of surviving the disease was less than 40%.
After undergoing treatment, Armstrong was miraculously declared cancer-free just four months later.
Three years later, he began his incredible 7-year run of Tour de France victories, and Lance Armstrong could do no wrong. He founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and within a span of weeks everybody across the world could be spotted wearing a yellow “Livestrong” bracelet. His cameo appearance in 2004’s Dodgeball is widely considered one of the funniest cameos in recent comedic history. He won the best male athlete distinction at the ESPYs from 2003 to 2006.
He was on top of the world and an inspiration to millions.
But even then, during the height of his reign, there was always claims that he was “doping,” an illegal process that involves boosting your number of red blood cells to enhance athletic performance. Regardless, Armstrong shrugged off the accusations, maintained his innocence, and we believed him. We believed because we wanted to believe him. Also, he never failed a urine test during any of his races.
Well, in late August, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officially concluded their investigation, determining that Armstrong did indeed partake in doping, stripped his titles and officially banned him from cycling. And on Oct. 17, Armstrong stepped down as the chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation in an effort to avoid any distractions to the organization.
Talk about a gigantic fall from grace.
On one hand, Armstrong cheated. And lied. Even his teammates testified against him. But at the same time, it took years of investigations to discredit him. It really seemed to me that it was indeed a witch hunt, even if he is guilty, which it obviously seems like he is.
And on the other hand, this man still survived cancer, and he has still inspired millions of people throughout the world through his foundation. As I said before, I have never seen anything in my life — perhaps besides Tomagotchis and crocs — become more trendy in such a short period of time than those Livestrong bracelets ten years ago. Even I had a one at the time, mainly because I wanted be cool. But at the time, Livestrong was cool. Lance Armstrong made cancer awareness cool. To say that he is not a leading pioneer in raising cancer funds and awareness would be a lie — cheater or not.
Plus his appearance in Dodgeball is still funny. I don’t care what anybody else says.
You haven’t really seen a public outlash against Lance Armstrong since this development occurred, and I think that is because nobody wants to hate him. Whenever baseball players are found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs, their entire career is defamed by the public, and nobody ever looks at them the same way again. Essentially, a convicted steroid user becomes an antagonist.
But you haven’t seen that with Armstrong. Granted, cycling isn’t really a sport that too many Americans actually care about. Again, with Armstrong, they were just interested in the story. Since Armstrong retired (for the second time), we haven’t really seen any coverage of the Tour de France on any major networks. Can you name one winner since Armstrong retired? Can you name one winner other than Armstrong, ever? Can anyone even ride a bike for more than 23 minutes, let alone 23 days?
And how can you hate on Lance? Doping or not, coming back from cancer and winning a near one-month long race is still something that, let’s see, one person in the history of our existence has ever done.
The fact that Armstrong was forced to resign from his foundation, and that Nike and other sponsors decided to drop him is very upsetting. I’d still sponsor Lance any day.
In fact, Sir Lance, I know you’ve never been knighted but I am going to call you Sir Lance anyway, if you are looking for sponsorship during this dark time — I will do it. The Weinblog will gladly sponsor you. I have no money to give you, but I will drop your name every now and then. Whether I am talking about Facebook or talking about girls, I will still manage to squeeze in the name Lance Armstrong.
I’m also not going to lie, I did some blood doping before writing this blog just to see if it would improve my performance.
It didn’t, and now I am feeling woozy and I think I need to go to the E.R.