It is the end of an era for Lance Armstrong. Unfortunately, according to the International Cycling Union and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, that era was based on one giant lie.
Armstrong, for anyone living under a rock, has had all seven of his Tour de France victories stripped away for taking banned substances. He has also been banned for life from the sport of pro cycling.
Given the amount of evidence, including the reportedly 11 former teammates who have testified against him, it would only be sensible for Armstrong to admit his guilt. Instead, the 41-year-old continues to maintain his innocence, almost laughably, for fans of cycling and onetime admirers of his brand.
Aside from dominating the sport for the better part of a decade and his notably caustic wave of joy after each victory, Armstrong is perhaps best known for those yellow Livestrong bracelets, developed by Nike and meant to rally support for cancer research. Moving forward, Nike will continue to support the bracelets but not Armstrong. Other marquee sponsors, such as RadioShack and sports equipment manufacturer Oakley, have also dropped him. Even events like the Boston and New York marathons are rumored to be planning the same. For a man once beloved for his remarkable cancer recovery and sports successes, the shunning has just begun.
The crucial element to remember with Armstrong is that he cheated, for a really long time. Comparisons to other scandalous athletes, such as O.J. Simpson, Pete Rose and Tiger Woods, have been made and rightfully so. The difference, however, is that none of that trio actually cheated in their respective sports. Cycling as a whole has struggled mightily with the perception that most, if not all, of its athletes are doping, but that does not excuse Armstrong, who not only cheated but built an empire off his fraudulent image.
Armstrong represented the epitome of class: a clean-cut cancer survivor at the very top of his game. And the American public bought into his lie -- both figuratively and literally.
His colossal success and unprecedented seven straight Tour de France titles took place in a sports culture where he was the most famous, but far from the only, perpetrator of fraud. In Major League Baseball, we know that the real single-season home run champion is still Roger Maris (not Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds) and the true, all-time home run king remains Hank Aaron (not Bonds). Unlike baseball, cycling hasn't aired all its dirty linen yet, but that doesn't excuse Lance.
What's next for him remains unclear -- aside from changing his once illustrious Twitter bio. The previously incessant talk about film projects has subsided. Sony Pictures has dropped its widely reported Armstrong project, while others either have gone inactive or are being significantly altered.
Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union, recently declared that "Armstrong ... deserves to be forgotten in cycling." But couldn't we take that a step further? Wouldn't it be fair to say that Armstrong should just be, well, forgotten? America loves a comeback, and athletes are no exception. But for Lance Armstrong, that door is closed.
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