Lance Armstrong was the man–as a cancer survivor and record-breaking champion of seven consecutive Tour de France races, his Lance Armstrong Foundation had raised hundreds of millions of dollars since 1997, his face was branded on multiple advertisement campaigns for Nike, and his prosaic yet personal story provide cancer patients all over with inspiration.
Then Lance Armstrong had to go and break everyone’s hearts.
While there had been many signs of Armstrong’s steroid use, I stubbornly refused to notice them. I stayed strong when Pierre Ballester and David Walsh’s book in 2004 accused Armstrong of using performance enhancing drugs. I believed the out-of-court settlement in 2005 between Armstrong and his accusatory former employee. I even looked the other way from the published deposition claiming that he admitted the alleged doping to his physician just after brain surgery. All of his large donations to Union Cycliste Internationale were simply to better the integrity of professional cycling, right?
Sure, maybe I’m naive. But as the little girl that dreamt of running marathons, competing in Olympic swim heats, and, hey, maybe even winning the Tour de France, I wanted to hold on to that athletic ideal. Some girls envied princesses, actresses, or models, but I envied Lance Armstrong.
It feels like catching someone who’s cheated on you. You step back and realize how obvious the deceit was to everyone around you, but you were too caught up in the idea of perfection to believe it. You keep denying it, until one day you have to give up the act.
It’s possible that I was one of Armstrong’s last believers. Unfortunately, I’m throwing in the towel now. The evidence is just too strong. Lance Armstrong abused performance enhancing drugs. There, I said it.
On October 10, The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) released some rather convincing evidence against the athlete. According to the report, eleven of his teammates testified that Armstrong participated in “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program the sport has ever seen.” This took place on the US Postal Service Squad, which, as Time Magazine points out, received “tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding.” Really, Lance?
The report goes on to outline strong evidence of doping use throughout each of Armstrong’s seven Tour de France races and even in his more recent comeback. Emails, payments, witnesses to sketchy exchanges, and lab test results all point to what had been obvious to many.
Now, this certainly isn’t the first time such a case has come up. Remember Hulk Hogan, A-Rod, Marion Jones, and David Ortiz? Professional athletes using steroids is virtually an accepted fact of life. But Armstrong had been different. His career prided itself in being drug-free–he was an honest athletic who hit a bump in the road in the form of terrible cancer and made a miraculous comeback, epitomizing the spectacular potential of pure human spirit and motivation. And yet, this heroism was just a fallacy. Thanks for taking this hope from me, Lance. I will not soon recover.
As many still look up to celebrities who have publicly admitted to plastic surgery, liposuction, and air-brushing, steroid-using athletes somehow still maintain respect. Despite Armstrong’s deceit and amazingly successful cover-ups, he will still have defenders, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation will still receive support and success. I, however, will continue on my search for a true, honest athlete in this world of fraud and heartbreaking scandal.
Of course, now these events will be the inspiration of many brilliant jokes and references to come. Rainn Wilson has already submitted to the inevitable (but not officially proven) truth, tweeting “I’m going to melt and shoot up my Livestrong bracelet.”