“Legend” – a difficult word to use to describe someone guilty of aiding “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program” ever.
However, even with the news surrounding Lance Armstrong’s previously unknown past, I, like many (including current pro cyclists) think he will still be considered a “legend of the sport”.
In the Tour de France, a field of almost 200 riders start the three-week stage race and you can expect at least 30-40 to drop out. So it may have always seemed unlikely to some that a cancer survivor could win it within a few seasons of returning, and maybe more questions should have been asked, even during cycling’s darkest era.
The sad fact is that over the seven Tours Armstrong won, an astonishing 20 of the 21 podium finishers either were caught then or have beem since. But, when so many of his rivals were in the same boat, surely there must have been something else in him, a drive that made him win.
It is not impossible to win clean – Bradley Wiggins has proved that this summer. Don’t think that I’m say that Armstrong is the only person to have ever pioneered a doping programme on that scale.
Even recently, doping has been a thorn in the side of cycle races throughout the world, with favourites withdrawing after illegal results. Winners today are having titles they won years ago taken from their grasp on inspection.
The thousand pages of evidence (or “hatchet job” according to Armstrong’s lawyer) released by the US Anti-Doping Agency shows the failures of all sides. This isn’t just Armstrong and even if it was I’m not calling for him to be respected as a cyclist.
What he went through deserves appreciation; the scene he returned to and what he has since done for others – his foundation has helped millions of cancer patients and survivors. “Legend” still fits.