Lance Armstrong was once viewed as America’s golden boy. His courage through adversity and his extreme talent led him to become a true cultural icon. His 7th Tour De France win cemented him as one of the greatest cyclists to ever live, and put the sport of cycling in the public eye like never before. On July 24th, 2005 he won a record-setting 7th consecutive Tour de France title and promptly retired from the sport.
During his time on the circuit he survived testicular cancer and became the most famous cyclist of all time. His work to help cancer patients around the globe and his “LiveStrong” wristband campaign helped raise millions of dollars for cancer research and support for those living with the hideous disease. He was the most popular athlete in the United States for a while during this time.
In 2012 all of that changed.
You can’t run into an athlete today without addressing a doping charge. Performance enhancing drugs first hit the public consciousness when baseball heavy-hitter Jose Canseco exposed a series of juice rings in the MLB world. Investigations led to some of the most shocking discoveries of one time heroes. These charges against people like Alex Rodriguez and others made it clear to fans that stats could be altered based on the accusations of doping and charges that would eventually pend.
2012 brought Armstrong a dramatic fall from grace. He was stripped of all 7 of his titles, as when he started to dope was indistinguishable from one race to the next. His use of performance enhancing drugs made people renege their pledges to his “LiveStrong” campaign and called a lot of other athletes into question.
Armstrong became the number one cyclist in the world in 1996. After experiencing terrible pain during a test ride in 1996 he was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer. It had already spread to his lungs and brain. He got surgery and chemotherapy which led to a miraculous recovery in early 1997. He ended up signing with the US Postal Service team and began riding in 1997. He quit in the middle of one of the first races during his recovery, but ended up persevering in the years to follow. He came back to finish in the top 5 cyclists of the Tour of Spain and the World Championships in 1998. He only became more decorated after that and went on to win the staggering 7 Tour De France titles.
He became a star in the Hollywood sphere after dating singer Sheryl Crow, but later was renounced by her as well. His doping accusations destroyed his reputation and made everyone call his intentions into question. He was hailed as a hero by many children, young adults and cancer patients. The money he earned as part of his “LiveStrong” wristband campaign was tarnished as well, because not all of it was going to cancer research. Most actually went into Armstrong’s pockets.
There is a lot of danger in idolizing celebrities and athletes. They are simply human, and it’s amazing what some can be capable of doing under the guise of public consumption and pressure.