How the Mighty Have Fallen

by Sean Hackbarth

Lance Armstrong
Once upon a time, Lance Armstrong was one of the biggest sports figures in the world. Winning seven straight Tour de France titles not only made him an American icon but also a global legend. What’s more, much of his success came after he beat cancer. Armstrong turned that fame into charitable success with Livestrong and their ubiquitous yellow bracelets.

But always hanging over him was the suspicion that he cheated to win. No tests have ever come out proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he used performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions to cheat, but over the years, colleagues and fellow pro bicyclers made their accusations. Bit by bit evidence piled up until the United States Anti-Doping Agency last year stripped him of his Tour de France titles.

All that time, Armstrong claimed innocence, but he might not for much longer because “he wants to persuade antidoping officials to restore his eligibility so he can resume his athletic career.”

We wanted to believe Armstrong was legit. I know I did, but I also cheered for Floyd Landis when he won his Tour de France, even though we later found out he used drugs to win.

I don’t like living a cynical life, but the trope is often accurate: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Photograph: Paul Coster on Flickr.

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