Lance Armstrong, World Champion, 7 time Tour de France Winner and Cancer survivor. To many he is iconic not just to the sport of cycling but to those who have ever suffered or been effected by cancer.
His book 'It's not about the bike' is a detailed true story of his fight and survival against a cancer that brought him close to death and his return to the forefront of cycling's premium race the Tour de France from 1999 onwards. His seven wins from 1999 to 2005 were often magnificent his domination of a the tour a splendour to watch and to many of his fans he is a hero. But with great success also comes equal suspicion, his victories tainted with accusation of illegal doping and blood transfusions. It seems that no one is allowed to be this good without being suspected of being a cheat.
But to this day and despite over 500 urine and blood tests taken during, before, after and at anytime out of competition, Armstrong has never been caught. He is by all accounts clean despite the rumours. He has fought many court battles against those that would try to taint his name. He has quite rightly defended all that he has strived to obtain. Some would say that he is aggressive and quick to put people in line but this is his right in stopping rumours and lies formed by jealous or spiteful ex employees.
To many his success in cycling is only a small part of his fan base. He is the founder of Livestrong a charity which to date has raised over 500 million dollars to help with research, awareness and helping those deal with cancer. As an unlikely survivor he has often given hope to those who face the fight, a hero in the fight against the evil of cancer.
Yet here we are in 2012 witness to the proclaimed stripping of all he stood for. His tour titles stricken from the record books. The American Anti doping organisation (USADA) have attempted to take Armstrong to court to investigate his use of doping within the sport and his involvement of trafficking and being part of an organised doping ring. The case led by Travis Tygart has by many people been seen as nothing short of a witch hunt. Despite all his previous tests and no evidence found of doping from races 13 years ago USADA have continued to try and bring Armstrong to justice. A few days ago Armstrong finally conceded that he would no longer fight the case. This isn't an admission of defeat as so many would claim but more a dispirited response after years of trying to fight to clear his name.
So what if his titles are stripped, what then? In a sport that has been rife with doping and blood transfusion passing the jersey onto the likes of Jan Ulrich who failed drugs tests and later confessed guilt. The whole thing smites as pointless. Stripping him of his titles is a at best not going to achieve anything. Even if he did dope he would have been racing against others who were also doing the same and so levelling an even playing field.
He will always be seen by millions as the winner of those tours and taking those from him will fail to clear up doping within cycling. This has brought a lot of questions on USDA as to this charade. It is felt that they are doing this to justify their own existence, trying to land a big fish and not following up on already outstanding cases or other sports that suffer the same doping problems. It would also seem that they no longer want to loose face in this very public debacle.
Armstrong claims the USADA investigation "has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs".
"Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart's unconstitutional witch hunt," he said.
He accused USADA of having "broken the law" and "played the role of a bully" and insisted he always "played by the rules" put in place by anti-doping agencies and cycling's world governing body the UCI.
He added in a statement on his personal website: "The idea that athletes can be convicted today without positive A and B samples, under the same rules and procedures that apply to athletes with positive tests, perverts the system and creates a process where any begrudged ex-team-mate can open a USADA case out of spite or for personal gain or a cheating cyclist can cut a sweetheart deal for themselves.
"It's an unfair approach, applied selectively, in opposition to all the rules. It's just not right."
The supposed evidence that they have brought forward includes up to ten of his team mates but their motives are under question. Some believe that they may have been bribed with money or pardons for there own misgivings in drug usage.
But drugs aside and even if he is found to be guilty in someway the Armstrong fan base remains strong and this is perhaps most evident in the extra donations that have been made to Livestrong. People don't often care much about cycling and his success but more what he has brought to those affected by cancer. Before he is condemned he should be remembered for his charity work which he intends to continue supporting.
Lance Armstrong is a Hero in cycling with or without his titles, drugged or no he beat the best in the sport who were doping. His work for cancer has been inspirational and an example to many.
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