Lance Armstrong refuses to fight doping charges

Shelby H.

Managing Editor

Since the beginnings of competitive sports, athletes have been hailed as heroes and inspirations. As they display their physical prowess in competition, spectators look on in reverence. Athletes from Yogi Berra and Muhammad Ali to Peyton Manning and Serena Williams are placed upon high pedestals as symbols of perseverance and genuine hard work. Unfortunately, these idols sometimes fall from grace, caught up in, most prominently, drug scandals. Lance Armstrong, world class cyclist with seven Tour de France titles to his name, is one such athlete.

For more than a decade, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has hounded Armstrong with accusations of performance-enhancing drug (PED) use. With past accusations, Armstrong held fast to his innocence. However, when the USADA threw down the gauntlet yet again, Armstrong refused to pick it up. Calling the Anti-Doping Agency’s continued pursuit “an unconstitutional witch hunt,” Armstrong still maintains his innocence despite abandoning his case. However, this cessation begs the question: why give up now?

Lance Armstrong is widely lauded as one of the greatest and most inspirational men of the time. The Armstrong known by his fans is a warrior, having battled cancer and fought tooth and nail for every race he has won. For years he has asserted his innocence against PED-use allegations, brandishing what he describes as hundreds of passed drug tests as proof, but all of a sudden he has given up. Many of Armstrong’s former fans believe his surrender to be a clear indication of past drug use. Social studies teacher Jean Sellers was disappointed in the cyclist’s actions, saying, “To me, withdrawing his case is an inadvertent admission of guilt.” Mrs. Sellers is not alone in this belief, as the USADA claims that by refusing to defend himself against the doping accusations, Armstrong may lose his seven Tour de France titles, his 2001 Olympic bronze medal and any other awards and prizes he has earned since 1998.

While there are fans crushed by their hero’s apparent fall from grace, there remains still a loyal few who continue to defend Armstrong’s honor. Even if he did cheat in all those races, Armstrong succeeded in bringing millions of people hope. For those Armstrong has helped, the good deeds he has done in the real world outweigh any possible cheating he committed in a mere bike race. Even Armstrong’s biggest sponsors such as Nike have no plans to abandon him, and much of their loyalty has to do with his work with the Livestrong Foundation, a foundation Armstrong created to serve those struggling with cancer. Through his victory over testicular cancer and his brave return to cycling after his recovery, Armstrong has accumulated a fan base that extends beyond cycling enthusiasts. No loss of titles or doping accusation can strip Lance Armstrong of all that he has done for the cancer community. For some, Armstrong will remain on his pedestal.

Unfortunately, stories like Lance Armstrong’s are not uncommon in the world of athletics. Cycling in particular has one of the biggest problems with athletes using illegal performance enhancers, but other more popular sports have faced the same issue. Alex Rodriguez, for example, was once considered one of the best baseball players in recent history, thus it came as a shock to his many fans when in 2009, Rodriguez admitted to testing positive for anabolic steroid use. Highly competitive sports unfortunately seem to breed a “win at all costs” philosophy for the participating athletes, particularly professionals. For the greatest athletes, their sport is not just a hobby; it is their career, and better performance invariably accompanies a higher paycheck and more sponsors. Yet, when athletes use PEDs to boost their performance levels, the talent and hard work of honest, clean athletes gets overlooked. While Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France titles may go to someone else, their name will not be synonymous with the greatness they deserve. Countless athletes have gained notoriety falsely and still claim the legitimacy of their victories, but sports fans like Mrs. Sellers can tell the difference between a genuine winner, and a fraud. Mrs. Sellers puts it simply in saying, “If they cannot be superstars without the drugs, then they were never superstars to begin with.” Sadly, many true superstars will never gain the renown of their fraudulent peers.

Although Lance Armstrong’s alleged drug use is widely considered to be one of the greatest sporting scandals in history, he has a few redeeming assets backing him up. It is highly plausible that Armstrong may never see the finish line again and will no longer lay claim to his various cycling titles, but it is unlikely that he will recede into the shadows like defamed athletes before him. Armstrong’s entire cycling career cannot be simply swept under the rug; too many will always remember him as the limitless man who beat cancer and went on to take an unrivaled seven Tour de France victories. Others will continue to regard Armstrong not for his victories, but for the motivation he has provided them through the Livestrong Foundation. In the end, Armstrong, in all likelihood, very well may have used performance enhancing drugs and cheated many other clean cyclists out of a chance in the spotlight.

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