For years, former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong has been an inspiration and role model to athletes all over the world, as well as a growing number of cancer survivors. He won seven Tour de France titles after overcoming his own battle with testicular cancer, and has founded one of the largest cancer fundraising organizations in the world, Livestrong, while donating $6.5 million out of his own pocket to cancer research, according to CNN. On Oct. 18, a man whom some would call a national hero, having already been stripped of his racing titles, stepped down from his head position at Livestrong, and lost a multi-million dollar contract with Nike. What was the cause of his fall from grace? Years of constant attack and discrimination.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and other similar organizations have been out to get Armstrong since the day he won his first Tour de France title in 1999. The International Cycling Union has repeatedly cleared him of doping charges throughout the years, almost as quickly as these agencies can create them. The Cycling News website has produced an index of the allegations Armstrong has been subjected to over his entire career. He first tested non-negative to the drug cortisone back in 1999, yet he had simply used the cream to get rid of a saddle sore. In 2000, reporters watched a U.S. Postal Service Team vehicle dispose of material including the illegal substance Actovegin. French officials investigated for two years and Armstrong’s team was cleared of all charges. He was then accused of taking erythropoietin in 2005, due to an anonymous research study through UCI in which there was little to no convicting evidence that he had tested positive. That entire battle lasted until 2006 when Armstrong first went into retirement. The overall result from these countless investigations and drug-testing was to prove the cyclist was in fact completely innocent. After all of that time and money spent on fruitless allegations, what is the incentive to continue to push this man even more?
A better question would be if this illegal substance abuse was going on since 1999, then how on earth was it not caught before? The drug tests within the Tour de France, as well as the Olympics, have always been among the most advanced medical sports testing programs in the world. How can it be possible that the USADA found something they missed? Armstrong has been publicly attacked by anti-doping agencies for decades. This is clear discrimination if I ever saw it. I’m sure if these agencies were to go after any of the other athletes with as much force, they would be bound to find discrepancies as well. In fact, if everything the USADA is saying is true, then the true winner of many of those Tour de France titles is unknown. An article in USA Today states that of the 21 top three finishers in the Tour de France during Armstrong’s victory streak, only one has not been tied to doping, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. William of Ockham said it best: “The simplest answer is most often correct.” Which is more likely, the idea that Armstrong engaged in the most sophisticated doping program in history, including dozens of other cyclists, or someone in the USADA is holding a grudge?
Here is an analogy of this whole situation: Let’s say a local prosecutor has a nasty grudge against you. They try you on one case after another and you’re found innocent every time. Yet as one trial ends, you’re immediately arrested for a new crime. Not only does this prosecutor want you in prison but they also want to destroy your reputation and you as a person. At what point do you say enough and leave town? Does leaving prove the prosecutor right, that you did do all those crimes? According to a statement from USADA CEO Travis Tight, Armstrong has “exercised his legal right not to contest the evidence and knowingly accepted the imposition of a ban from recognized competition for life.” Armstrong is doing the only thing he can: give up.
And what about Nike? It’s not a stretch to say they’re being a little hypocritical by ending Armstrong’s contract due to the scandal. According to CNNMoney, the corporation re-signed Philadelphia Eagles player Michael Vick into an endorsement deal in 2011, even after Vick served 20 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to bankrolling a dogfighting operation. You can endorse a man that has spent time in prison, but instantly drop a charity-founder accused of cheating? Each player has made millions of dollars with Nike’s support, and it’s not right to disown one scandal while accepting another.
Regardless of whether the allegations against Armstrong are true or not, the lifelong pain the USADA has caused this man is unforgivable. It’s been a battle of wits and integrity that sadly the former cyclist has now lost. Everything Armstrong has accomplished through his charity Livestrong has potentially been put in jeopardy, as well as his reputation and legacy. There’s only so much one man can take and Armstrong has evidently had enough.
Lauren Richey can be reached at email@example.com