Armstrong’s legacy is tainted

 

Lance Armstrong has gone but his
legacy will survive for a long time. He is heralded as possibly the greatest
cyclist ever whose narrative is enhanced after recovering from cancer to win
the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times.

The 39-year-old American announced
his retirement from cycling last Wednesday, a month after his last race. He
initially retired from cycling in 2005 but returned four years later. This time
he said he was quitting for good to spend more time with his family and his
charities.

He finished third in the Tour in
his first year back and his final race was at the low-key Tour Down Under in
Australia last month. “He’s leaving a real legacy and to come back and get
third in the Tour at the age he was and after what he’d already accomplished is
pretty impressive,” Armstrong’s former team mate Christian Vande Velde said.

Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx, a five
time winner of the Tour de France, said Armstrong was right to call it a day.
“It was time for him to stop,” Merckx said. “He’s won everything, had nothing
left to prove to anybody.”

Armstrong was diagnosed with
testicular cancer in 1996 but survived and returned to the bike and went on to
become one of the most successful and controversial cyclists of all time. He
won the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005 before quitting.

He made a comeback because he
partly missed the thrill of competition but was driven by a greater cause, to
help promote cancer awareness through his charity Livestrong.

He enjoyed mixed success but could
not add to his record number of Tour de France wins. He finished 23rd last
year, after moving to the RadioShack team but suffering a series of crashes
that ruined his chances.

Armstrong announced just before
Christmas that January’s Tour Down Under would be his last international race.
He planned to compete in a handful of events in the US this year, including the
Tour of California, before revealing that he was quitting for good.

“My focus now is raising my five
children, promoting the mission of Livestrong, and growing entrepreneurial
ventures with our great corporate partners in the fight against cancer,” he
said.

Although he never failed a dope
test and always denied doping, Armstrong was dogged by accusations of
wrongdoing during his career. Last year, former team mate Floyd Landis, while
confessing to cheating himself, accused Armstrong of using performance
enhancing drugs.

Jerome Ameline is one of Cayman’s
top cyclists and is sad to see Armstrong bow out for good. “I will keep hoping
that he comes back,” Ameline said. “Lance retired once before and came back. I
hope he will change his mind again.

Did Ameline expect Armstrong to do
better than he did when he came out of retirement? “No, he actually did very
well. He finished very good at the Tour de France two years ago but was
unfortunate to share the same team as Contador. Last year’s Tour, he was again
in very good physical shape but was struck several times by bad luck by falling
many times.”

Ameline dismisses the drugs slurs
against his hero. “I do not think he cheated with illegal drugs. And if he took
some illegal drugs, I declare him even more a champion as he was never caught
in such a long reign.

“I think he helped to make cycling
popular in the States, therefore the same in Cayman. I do not know anybody who
doesn’t know Lance Armstrong. He is a leader, an example, who knows how to
achieve a goal.

“He did and is still doing so much
for the cancer fight. I would not be surprised that he will run for
presidential elections in a few years. You may laugh at me when I say that, but
who would have think of Arnold Schwarzenegger as California governor a few
years ago.”

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Armstrong retires under a cloud.
Photo: Eugene Bonthuys

1 COMMENT

  1. Oh dear, Mr Ameline!
    I declare him even more of a champion because he was never caught…so you obviously think he was guilty of illegal drug use but as he wasnt caught, its acceptable.
    I think you should examine very carefully what you are about to say, well before you open your mouth.
    By the way, I am a great admirer of Armstrong, and have followed his career closely, including watching the TV broadcasts of every day of every Tour de France before and during his years.
    I believe him to speak the truth about drugs, and hope to continue believing that.

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