I wrote a post just over a month ago, after the USADA released their case against Lance Armstrong, expressing my views on the situation as a long time Armstrong supporter. Since that time a number of things have happened that made me feel I needed to say more on the matter.
A week after the USADA released their evidence against Armstrong he stepped down as CEO of his Livestrong charity. The UCI decided to go along with the USADA’s findings and formally strip Armstrong of his Tour de France titles. A number of sponsors dropped Armstrong since the case against him was released to the public, and negative publicity just seemed to keep rolling in.(Adelaide Australia even took back the key to their city). The yesterday Armstrong stepped down from the board of director’s at Livestrong, severing any formal ties to the charity he started in 1997. Armstrong has always been known as someone with a massive ego (find me a great athlete without an ego) and it is easy to see that the last few months have been delivering some difficult blows. I stated before that I had known for a long time Armstrong was guilty of doping. After so many of his peers were proven guilty it was impossible to see any other reality. I choose not to condemn Armstrong and his peers for doping, it was/is the culture of the sport, and while it is something that needs to be fixed I don’t see it as something the ruins the past few decades of cycling. The fact that he was a doper doesn’t ruin Armstrong’s legacy for me. His decision to leave Livestrong makes a much bigger impact on my vision of him. While he claims the decision was to avoid a negative effects on the charity as a result of the controversy surrounding him, this feels like a cop-out to me. Armstrong’s move to leave Livestrong feels more like a ‘screw you, I’m taking my stuff and going home’ than something that was actually meant to help the organization. It makes me feel like there may be some credence to the idea that Livestrong was more about Armstrong’s ego than his desire to help people. And more than any other news released to date it effects my view of Armstrong and his legacy. I used to see him as an amazing athlete who had a bit of an ego, and made the same mistake all his peers made. Now I am seeing him more as the selfish ego-maniac described by some former teammates. Maybe I’m reading into the Livestrong situation too much, maybe it’s more innocent than it feels to me. It’s hard to watch your hero’s fall, and the fall for Armstrong has been a long hard one, and it’s hard to be sure if we’ve reached the bottom yet. Despite all the problems in the sport, I still love cycling. I’ll still be tuning into the Tour de France next summer, and I encourage all of you to do the same, the event is horribly underappreciated in the United States. And while I’m watching I’m sure there will be memories of some of Armstrong’s great moments in the race, but the memories will be a little more bittersweet next summer. For the first time I feel real disappointment in one of my hero’s and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to view Armstrong in the same way again.