It was an admission you didn’t want to hear, but you knew in a where-there’s-that-much-smoke-there-has-to-be-fire kind of way you figured it was coming someday.
Allegations that Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs were almost as relentless as Armstrong was in winning a record seven Tour de France titles.
But you hoped there was some explanation for the persistent allegations other than the one that came when Armstrong finally came clean to Oprah Winfrey in an interview taped Monday to air on Winfrey’s network (OWN) on Thursday and Friday.
The explanation wasn’t jealous competitors or jealous teammates or some grand conspiracy to tear down one of the few athletes who actually seemed deserving of hero worship.
No, the explanation was the obvious one, the simple one, the one we had hoped against hope wasn’t true.
Armstrong cheated to win those Tour de France titles, covered up his illegal drug program and lied and lied and lied again about it.
This isn’t the same as Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens confessing, if and when that ever happens.
Armstrong transcended the ability to hit a baseball or throw a baseball or even negotiate a bicycle through the Pyrenees. His story was of someone diagnosed with testicular cancer, whose cancer spread to his lungs and brain, giving him an uphill battle to live to be 30.
But Armstrong did live to be 30, defeating cancer and elevating himself to greater heights than his mere cycling championships could. He and his Livestrong Foundation raised millions of dollars for cancer patients, and each subsequent triumphant ride around the Champs de Elysees further inspired millions around the world.
You could look at the changes to Bonds’ body over the years and see something was amiss. You could compare Clemens’ feats to a calendar and wonder.
But when you looked at Armstrong you saw — at least you wanted to see — nothing but the triumph of the human spirit, an athlete who fought off the ravages of cancer to become the best in the world and help others beat cancer along the way.
It was a story that seemed too good to be true, which sadly it turned out to be.
Armstrong’s accomplishments were accompanied by whispers of drug use, which grew exponentially louder.
He was so forceful in his denials, you wanted to believe in some other explanation even as anything other than the obvious got harder and harder to fathom.
Then last summer, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency — citing testimony from numerous witnesses — stripped Armstrong of his Tour de France titles and banned him from cycling for life.
The sanctions came shortly after Armstrong announced he we would no longer fight the allegations, the charges he had so vehemently denied for years.
A still-defiant Armstrong said he was giving up the fight because he was “finished with this nonsense.”
With his long-overdue admission of guilt, we are too.
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