Lance Armstrong: seven times Tour de France winner, cancer survivor, and the biggest drugs cheat in the history of sport.
Before 2012-2013 Lance Armstrong was considered by many to be the greatest cyclist the sport had ever seen. He had won the illustrious Tour de France a record-breaking seven consecutive times in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. Not only this, but against all odds he had survived cancer and set up his own cancer charity. He was an idol to many people and an all-round good guy in the media and the cycling world. Fast forward to 2015 and his reputation is tarnished as he is now labeled a cheat. He has also single-handedly destroyed the legitimacy of sport across the world.
Amidst all of Armstrong’s success, there were constant allegations that he was using performance-enhancing drugs to win, allegations he consistently denied, sometimes viciously. No investigation occurred until 2010 and, in 2012, The US Anti-Doping Agency found that Armstrong had been the ringleader of a sophisticated group set up to cover what Armstrong had been doing. He would use blood doping, tamper with documents to say that he had passed drugs tests and bully his teammates to follow his lead. Armstrong finally confessed to doping in January 2013 on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Following this, he had his titles stripped from him and cycling as a sport started its long recovery.
The revelation has not just rocked cycling, but it has also destroyed people’s confidence in sport in general. Now, when athletes break world records or win against all the odds instead of people cheering and supporting them, they are questioning if they are on drugs and doubting if it was a clean win. The whole excitement and admiration of sportsmen and women has been damaged due to Lance Armstrong.
Cycling has just about recovered from the Armstrong disease thanks to Bradley Wiggins’ heroic Tour de France and Olympics triumph in 2012 and Chris Froome’s recent success in the sport. However, the memory of what Armstrong did for seven years looms large and will possibly never be overcome.
Not surprisingly, the spotlight has now turned to other sports; if the doping authorities missed what Armstrong was doing what else is going on? Although the Armstrong case has led to better testing and increased scrutiny, which can only be a good thing, accusations have now gotten out of hand and anyone who has ever achieved something in sport is now being questioned. Earlier this year for example, Mo Farah was accused by many to have been a drug cheat. Although he was found to be innocent, he still had to endure months of criticism and speculation over whether he cheated in order to achieve glory at the 2012 Olympics.
Where do we go from here? We have two options; we can either crack down on doping cheats going through all blood records of every sporting event to see who won clean and who did not. Alternatively, we can just admit that doping is too big of an issue to stop so we should just accept and expect that everyone dopes and it is just a case of who can perform best on performance-enhancing drugs. While the first option may seem like a good idea, do we really want to know? If the results may tarnish the world of sport forever are we just best not knowing? I do not have the answer. The second option shows just how sad the whole scenario is, if we are unable to trust that anyone can win fairly and cleanly then maybe this is the way to go, but I for one, as would millions around the world would be sad to think that sport has fallen to this level.
Overall, the case of Lance Armstrong has redefined the way we look at sport and its athletes and will continue to do so for decades. While he can be blamed for destroying people’s confidence and belief in sport, we should also be thankful that the Armstrong case has unearthed many other cheats. Yes, it is disappointing but it is better to know that they cheated rather than believe they won cleanly when they did not. There are still a lot of questions that sport has to answer to and people need to be won back, many are disillusioned with doping, and it will take years to prove that any sport is truly clean.