The house of cards known as Lance Armstrong has finally come tumbling down. After 13 years of allegations of doping followed by Armstrong’s steadfast denials, the United States Anti-Doping Agency has finally presented sufficient evidence which resulted in not only the USADA banning Armstrong for life from competing in any United States sanctioned athletic event, but cycling’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale, has stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles.
Much as Wayne Gretzky influenced the growth of ice hockey in non-traditional markets in the US, Armstrong fueled the cycling movement in the United States. Whatever elevated status the sport has achieved in North America, Armstrong is largely responsible. Unfortunately, the man who single-handedly put cycling on the map in the United States will also be responsible for its demise. All in just over a decade.
For those like me who steadfastly supported Armstrong, the disappointment is huge. I continually backed him because although the allegations never stopped, no one ever produced any evidence. Not one shred that could be supported. Until now. In what amounts to the USADA’s version of turning state’s evidence, the riders on Armstrong’s former teams have finally come clean. But not Lance. He chooses to remain silent. A silence that is deafening.
I started riding because of Lance Armstrong. Will I stop riding? No. Why? Because of the fitness benefits and the low impact on my joints. Will I continue to follow professionally cycling, even casually? Probably not. There is, however, another huge implication in this scandal. One far more important than my waning interest in professional cycling. Unlike other cyclists caught doping, Armstrong refuses to admit his part in the scandal, even in the face of insurmountable evidence. The man who inspired a nation with his courage, after beating cancer and then winning seven consecutive Tours, could save what precious little is left of his reputation by finally coming clean. His refusal to do so will not only contribute to the demise of interest in cycling in this country, it will likely spell ruin for the Livestrong Foundation, Armstrong’s cancer support organization. I expect donations to that organization to drop significantly. Why? The same reason I will no longer contribute. Trust – or a complete lack of it.
Like Armstrong’s sponsors, former supporters like me will not be able to drop the erstwhile icon quickly enough. A sad ending to something much bigger than seven Tour de France titles.