There hasn’t been a shortage of elite athletes that have fallen from grace in recent years. Most of them have been baseball players who have been caught using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and then lying about it. Golfer Tiger Woods fell from his pedestal because of extra-marital affairs. He has yet to regain his previous aura and perhaps never will. But the loudest crash of all came from cyclist Lance Armstrong who was not only a liar and a cheat but ruined other people’s lives in the process.
I’ve written about Armstrong in the recent past because of a documentary that covered his admission of PEDs. The video barely scratched the surface though. To really appreciate the corruption of Armstrong and cycling as a whole you should read Juliet Macur’s comprehensive biography of Armstrong and the culture of elite bike racing, “Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong.”
In case you missed the story, Armstrong won the world’s preeminent bike race, the Tour de France, seven straight times from 1999 to 2005. His achievement was made all the more amazing by the fact he overcame testicular cancer to reach the pinnacle of his sport. Armstrong started a foundation for cancer research called “Livestrong” and became the cover-boy for helping cancer victims. He literally became an American hero.
The problem was that there had been doping allegations against him since his first Tour de France win in 1999. Blood doping and the use of EPO and other illegal drugs were commonplace in elite racing. Even as more and more riders were either caught or admitted to drug use Armstrong kept issuing emphatic denials. He threatened to sue anyone who claimed otherwise.
The French media in particular went after him with a vengeance. They would uncover records of failed drug tests by Armstrong but the powers-that-be appeared complicit in his denials. The American press was either blind or stupid since they consistently backed Armstrong. They either didn’t want to believe his rags-to-riches story was tainted or they enjoyed bashing anything French.