Found August 24, 2012 on Fox Sports:
Lance_armstrong_at_39b5
On the hot road to this village in the deepest south of France, we passed the forbidding, barren mountain where Lance Armstrong, the cyclist, took a giant step toward becoming Lance Armstrong, the sporting myth. It was 12 years ago this summer. Riding hard, Armstrong fiddled with the collar of his bright yellow Tour de France leader's jersey and tugged its back, getting comfortable in the saddle for one of his trademark attacks. Then, a few minutes later, he was off, literally like a rocket, leaving rivals for dead and making the towering Mont Ventoux look like little more than a speed bump. The physical strength he showed that July 13 at the 2000 Tour was mind-boggling. And there were so many other equally mind-boggling moments in the other six Tours he won. I was there for some of them. The power of Armstrong on the bike, the mix of steely charm and cold, single-minded determination, was like nothing I'd ever seen - both then and since. Which is why it's even more mind-boggling to think that none of this really happened. Gone. Expunged. Erased by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and its finding that the bulk of his career was built on lies and banned performance-enhancing drugs. The utter destruction of the Lance Armstrong myth, the man seemingly so tough that he not only beat cancer but won the world's toughest bike race a record seven times, is going to take quite some time to digest. Other commentators will talk about how this will affect the cancer survivors Armstrong inspired and the foundation he set up to fight the disease. And only the most cynical will say that that side of Armstrong should crumble along with his status as a sporting icon. They will examine how the fall of the only rider who held a candle to Eddy Merckx as cycling's biggest ever star will affect the sport and the Tour and whether the yellow jerseys Armstrong took back to his Texas home should go to other competitors. The answer there should be 'non.' Let the titles remain vacant - a black hole in the record books for the black hole in the 1990's and 2000's that many riders, presumably now including Armstrong, stared into - realizing that the only way they were going to succeed in the drug-addled sport was by pricking themselves with syringes of EPO or swallowing drops of hormones like so many others. Yes, they were cheats. But there were many victims of the doping culture, too, seemingly including Armstrong, who burned so badly to be more than simply an athletic young kid from a broken home in Plano, Texas. There will be discussion about the fairness of the process that led USADA to ban Armstrong for life and strip him of nearly everything he won. Some will argue that Armstrong simply tried to protect what's left of his name and reputation by turning his back on USADA, portraying himself as the victim of what he says is its witch hunt. And they are already saying that we shouldn't have allowed ourselves to be sucked in by Armstrong in the first place, because sporting performances which look too good to be true probably are. That is grossly unfair to all those athletes who don't dope. And that horrid cynicism kills not only our pleasure in watching sport but the very idea that people can do mind-boggling things. They can. According to USADA, Armstrong no longer can be said to have won the Tour seven straight times. But we should all fight tooth and nail for the ambition that perhaps one day, someone could and that they could do it clean. Otherwise, why get out of bed in the morning? Now on holiday in some of the same parts of southern France from where I reported on the Tour, I ask myself where did we go wrong? And did we go wrong? I remember a journalist once asking Armstrong about the color of his socks and I think, ''Should we have asked tougher questions?'' In light of what USADA dug up, yes. But the doping questions were asked over and over and his answers were invariably the same: I train hard, have nothing to hide and how mad would I have to be to pump drugs into a body that barely survived late-stage cancer? In hindsight, the notion of Armstrong apparently risking his health with doping is one of the most mind-boggling aspects of USADA's findings. And during the years he was winning, we were told Armstrong's drug tests kept coming back negative. Until the evidence started to mount, it was hard to argue otherwise. There were the those, the courageous and enterprising ones, who dug as deep as possible into the growing suspicions that Armstrong wasn't being completely straight, and a few others who faced his wrath by speaking out. But the truth is also that witnesses of Armstrong's apparent cheating didn't come forward in the same numbers and with the same weight that USADA says they have now. In short, what we had was Armstrong, with his incredible tale of survival performing incredible feats on a bicycle. It was good while it lasted. That ride on the Ventoux. The day in the Pyrenees when he snagged his handlebar on a spectator's bag, fell, picked himself up and rode with fury. On and on. One memory after another. But it all means absolutely nothing now. Gone. Didn't happen. Mind-boggling. --- John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/johnleicester
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Nike plans to continue support of Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong and Nike will continue to ride together. Armstrong said "enough is enough" on Thursday, deciding that he would no longer fight allegations from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. Armstrong was subsequently stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from competitive cycling for life. The...
GIVING UP THE FIGHT

Armstrong won't fight doping charges

Lance Armstrong has announced that he will not fight the doping charges that have been brought against him by the U.S. Doping Agency.

Tour staying mum on Armstrong case

The organizers of the Tour de France say they will wait to see what happens before commenting on Lance Armstrong's case. Armstrong said Thursday that he would not pursue arbitration in the doping case brought against him by USADA, causing his seven Tour de France titles to be stripped Friday by the American agency. But the International Cycling Union says it wants USADA to...

Armstrong's coach hits out at 'unjust' legal case

Lance Armstrong's longtime coach says the seven-time Tour de France winner is the victim of an ''unjust'' legal case that could cost him his victories in cycling's greatest race. Johan Bruyneel says he's ''disappointed'' for Armstrong, who denies doping but chose to not pursue arbitration in the drug case brought against him by the U.S...

Embattled Armstrong in bike race

For a few hours, Lance Armstrong was back in his element - on a bike and in a race. No controversies, little fanfare. The escape Saturday into the mountains around Aspen, Colo., comes a day after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency disciplined Armstrong with a lifetime ban from professional cycling and vacated his seven Tour de France titles after deciding he used performance-enhancing...

WADA prez backs USADA on Lance

World Anti-Doping Agency President John Fahey says Lance Armstrong's decision to drop his fight against drug charges was an admission the allegations ''had substance in them.'' Fahey told The Associated Press on Friday he was certain the United States Anti-Doping Agency acted properly in its decision to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles after...

Armstrong goes from hero to zero

Lance Armstrong is the Great American Sports Cheat. Our greatest ever. It's not just that his Tour de France titles are about to be taken away. By now, we've dealt with plenty of amazing feats taken away because of doping. Or not taken away. Guilty or innocent, Barry Bonds never asked us to believe that he was all about the potential of human spirit. Roger Clemens and Marion...

Who gets Lance Armstrong's titles now— other suspected dopers?

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said on Thursday it will strip Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles.  While the cyclists Armstrong beat have another chance to get his relinquished titles, it isn't going to be easy for organizers to sift through the the second and third--place finishers to find a deserving winner. All seven of the second and third place during Armstrong...

Contador pays tribute to former rival Armstrong

Alberto Contador has declined to comment on the possibility of Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, instead paying tribute to his former teammate's skill on the bike. Armstrong won't pursue arbitration in the case brought against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which says his Tour titles will be stripped and he will be banned for life for...

Armstrong's Ban is Cycling's Death Knell

[caption id="attachment_2224" align="alignleft" width="210"] With Armstrong abandoning his fight against USADA, all seven of his Tour de France wins might disappear. As will what's left of cycling's credibility and popularity. (www.dosomething.org)[/caption] Once upon a time, boxing ruled in America. The sport appealed to everyone from Las...

Lance Armstrong Gives Up Fight, Surrenders Cycling Titles

Cyclist Lance Armstrong has announced that he's giving up his fight against doping allegations brought against him by the United States Anti-Doping...

Lance Armstrong will lose all 7 Tour de France titles

Thia just hit the associated  press a couple hours ago With stunning swiftness, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday night it will strip Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he dropped his fight against drug charges that threatened his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of all time. Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive, said Armstrong...

10 Lesser Known Facts About Lance Armstrong

Now that the boom has been lowered on seven time Tour De France champion Lance Armstrong we look back at his life and career.
Cycling News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.