Still a champion.

So, the International Cycling Union has stripped Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour titles…

But, they haven’t stripped him of those victories.  No one will ever be able to take that way from him. 

I find it interesting that a court of law lacked the evidence to find him guilty of doping but a separate governing body has enough evidence to ban him from the sport for life.  How can that be?  They obviously don’t hold themselves to the same standards. 

(As an aside, this situation is very similar to something that just happened in England as well: John Terry was found not guilty of racism in a court of law, but the Football Association chose to hold their own inquest and found him guilty.  At least the FA admitted to not having to hold themselves to the same standards as the courts.  Still, it felt every bit a witch hunt – they wanted a high-profile player to get called out on racism so they were going to find him guilty no matter what.)

Armstrong has been under heightened scrutiny since before the first of his seven tour victories.  His meteoric rise through the ranks to become one of the dominant forces on the uphill portions of the Tour singled him out for extra surveillance and extra tests.  Time and time again he was accused of cheating and time and time again his doping screening results came back clean.

Okay, so he found a way to beat the tests, right?  That’s what the USADA is alleging in their 200 page report.  So, he cheated, and got away with it for a decade.  Really?  That’s kind of a black eye for all the companies that have been in charge of doing the drug tests over the years…

But, I digress, so let’s get back to the point at hand.  The USADA claims that Lance Armstrong doped, the International Cycling Union read the report and decided there was enough evidence to wipe out Armstrong’s tour results and now Lance is a 7 time Tour champion no more.

Except, that he still won those races.  The official records may no longer show that he was the winner, but he is still, and always will be, a legend in the sport because of what he accomplished; doping or not.  Wiping out his official results won’t also wipe out our memories of his victories, his opponents memories, his own memories, etc… 

I haven’t made up my mind yet on Lance.  I’m not so naive as to believe that the USADA was determined to bring him down no matter what (a la the FA and John Terry), but it certainly does hint at a witch hunt, doesn’t it?  I mean, test after test after test came back clean and it wasn’t until a disgraced rider, who got caught cheating, called Lance out by name that the naysayers had a leg to stand on at all.  But the sheer number of people who have come forward since then make it mostly likely that he did dope.

That hasn’t changed my opinion of the man though.  For his feats on the bike and off, he is a fierce competitor, an unrivaled athlete, and a dominant force in the fight against cancer.  People may argue that he has let his fans down, that as one of our sports heroes he has an obligation to hold himself to a higher standard.  I don’t believe that.  I don’t put sports figures on pedestals.  I don’t engage in hero-worship like that.  He is human, just like the rest of us: prone to the same frailties and desires.  His desire was to win and he found a way to do that consistently for seven years in the hardest physical endurance competition in the world while simultaneously being a champion for and raising awareness of his LiveStrong foundations work related to cancer.

I’m not condoning “winning at all costs.”  But, the man has done more good for this world than most of us can dream of. 

I’m also not saying that his good behavior gives him a pass on his bad behaviors.  But, for me, the name Lance Armstrong will always be synonymous with Champion.

6 thoughts on “Still a champion.

  1. I sort of agree with you about Lance Armstrong but not so much about John Terry. The sad thing about both cases though is how sports turned a bind eye until things blew up in their collective face.

    • I wasn’t intentionally defending or condemning John Terry, only brought him up as an example of another instance where a court found someone not guilty but a separate regulatory body found the person guilty afterwards. Personally, though my opinion really means nothing because I’m a Yank, I’m glad he retired from the National Team. He was a great defender but it’s time for some one else to step up and prove their worth.

  2. I’ve been wondering about Lance Armstrong myself. Newsreaders and commentators have judged and juried him for years. He’s a pariah in the sporting community. I feel sorry for him.

    • I knew it meant that he would most likely be judged guilty by all involved, but I was happy with his decision not to play their games anymore… after 10 years of taking test after test after test it must have felt good to just say, “I don’t care anymore.”

  3. I quite agree that those who should have been controlling the sport have as many questions to answer as Mr Armstrong did. I imagine Lance believes he did nothing more wrong than many of his main rivals, and therefore earned his wins fairly.

    However, even if he were clean himself (which seems highly unlikely), he had the assistance of doped-up team members. This alone should disqualify him.

    Of course he wasn’t the only cheat. For a take on it from someone who rode against him many times, I recommend Bradley McGee’s article:

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