Armstrong’s falling star

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Luke Hollomon, Staff Writer

 

Seven years ago, he was on top of the world. Seven consecutive times the then-35-year-old had won the greatest event in his sport. He had captured twice as many wins as anyone ever had before, and was only the second to win more than three in a row.

Today, his name is almost a joke.

Photo courtesy of Lancearmstrong.com

Lance Armstrong was once the greatest American athlete. He was the Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year,” host of the ESPN awards show, the “ESPYs,” and one of the most decorated cyclists in the history of the sport.

Now, it has all fallen apart.

Armstrong left the cycling world behind in 2005 and has not since returned to it, except for a brief period out of retirement in 2009. It would not let him go quietly, though. As the years passed and more and more cyclists from his era were implicated in doping scandals, eyebrows were raised about Armstrong.

Though Armstrong is purported to be the most-tested athlete of all time and the United States Anti-Doping Association (ASADA) cannot point to a single incident where he tested positive for a banned substance, questions remained.

Former teammates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton (both of whom were banned from the sport after positive doping tests) raised many of those questions by coming forward with allegations that Armstrong ran an organized doping regimen with their former team, US Postal Service.

In 2010, FDA Investigator Jeff Novitzky responded by opening an official investigation into these allegations. After months of litigation and wrangling with Armstrong’s lawyers, Novitzky dropped the case in February of this year.

This was not the end, however, because the FDA passed its evidence over to the USADA, which began its own investigation in June.

The USADA has more freedom than the FDA, being a private, non-federal, non-profit organization. Because of this freedom, it was able to produce a preliminary report in July calling for Armstrong to be banned from all sanctioned competitions.

This report removed him from triathlon competitions all over the world, in which he had been participating for the last two years.

Armstrong sued the USADA for its report, but the judge would not hear the case, saying that it was intended to drum up public sentiment rather than make an actual legal argument.

Finally, on August 23, Armstrong decided, for the first time in his life, to stop fighting. He overcame brain cancer in the 1990s before overcoming every other professional cyclist, but the USADA was too much for Armstrong.

“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” Armstrong wrote on his website. “For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart’s unconstitutional witch hunt. The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense.”

Now that the fight is over, the USADA published its finished report on Oct. 11. Though he never actually tested positive, the USADA recommended that he be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and every other professional win. The organization’s hundreds-of-pages-long report was filled with testimonies from former teammates about his doping practices, including ways that they said he avoided the doping controls.

Armstrong has fallen from the top of the world, fast and hard. Though he was once the greatest ever, he now has no official wins in professional cycling or triathlon. The seven-time Tour de France Champion is now naught but an historical afterthought.

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