Eighty million yellow wristbands worn as symbols of hope now represent duplicity.
Seven yellow jerseys worn as mantles of a champion now represent fraud.
Who is Lance Armstrong? Tour de France winner, cancer survivor, heroic conqueror of mountains and adversity. But we always had suspicions, and finally we know the truth: Armstrong is a con man.
People who still think otherwise are deluding themselves the same way Armstrong deluded them.
There’s a saying among athletes that only dopes get caught for doping. And only dopes believe stories that are too good to be true. Armstrong doped and duped with equal precision.
“We were good actors,” Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton said. “We had two faces.”
Nike terminated Armstrong’s contract Wednesday, citing “insurmountable evidence” that Armstrong “misled” his sponsor for a decade. When Nike disowns one of its stars, particularly one whose Livestrong brand adorns 98 different products, you know he is poison. Nike stood by Tiger Woods when he was revealed to be a serial adulterer and Kobe Bryant when he was charged with sexual assault (charges later dropped). Nike re-signed Michael Vick after he served prison time for animal cruelty.
But Nike wants nothing more to do with a defiant cheater who often played the cancer card when deflecting criticism, evading questions and belittling doubters. He used to say any insinuation that he put toxins in his body again after undergoing cancer treatment was insensitive to what he and other patients went through.
Livestrong? Armstrong was living a lie.
In the Hall of Shame, Armstrong’s hubris ranks as more rancid than that of Barry Bonds, a mean, paranoid jerk. Armstrong can be a jerk, too, albeit a charismatic one. But the Armstrong myth was not just fostered by dishonesty but by the deep emotions of his fans. Bonds produced disgust. Armstrong broke hearts.
Minutes before Nike blacklisted Armstrong, he announced his resignation as chairman of the cancer awareness foundation he created in 1997 and built into a powerful charitable force. He said he didn’t want Livestrong to suffer “negative effects from the controversy surrounding my cycling career.”
Armstrong, 41, was stripped of his seven Tour titles and banned from competition for life by the United States Anti-Doping Agency after an investigation proved he was user, leader and enforcer of systematic, sophisticated doping practices on his U.S. Postal Service team, USADA said.
Armstrong decided not to challenge the findings or cross-examine his accusers in an arbitration hearing. USADA released a dossier last week with nearly 1,000 pages of sworn testimony from 26 witnesses, lab reports, emails and financial records.
The report pieced together the fragments that have eroded Armstrong’s granite reputation through the years. Armstrong used performance enhancers EPO, human growth hormone, steroids and oxygen-boosting blood transfusions. He pressured teammates to do the same or find another job. He stored drugs in his refrigerators in Nice, France, and Girona, Spain. He eluded testers by planting lookouts at team hotels, sneaking masking agent IVs into his room, being unclear about his whereabouts, hiding syringes and covering up a positive result. He made $1 million in payments to a creepy, nefarious physician known in cycling as “Dr. Blood.”