Cyclist Lance Armstrong, once lauded as one of the greatest athletes of all time, saw his legacy all but completely destroyed this week when he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and issued a lifetime ban from cycling.
In what is likely to be the final blow to his cycling career, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said in a report published Oct. 17 that it has “conclusive and undeniable proof”—including testimony from 26 people, 11 of whom are Armstrong’s former teammates—that Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs.
According to the report, Armstrong not only took banned substances, but he also trafficked the drugs and pressured members of his U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling team to take them, as well. With this and other new evidence surfacing, the USADA has called Armstrong’s situation “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
Although the more than 1,000-page report produces no substantial evidence of a single positive drug test (Armstrong has never actually failed a drug test in his 25-year cycling career), several of the world’s most prominent advertisers—including Nike, Anheuser-Busch and RadioShack—wasted no time in cutting ties with the athlete after the report surfaced.
It’s certainly not the first time in recent years that confidence in an international sports celebrity has been tempered. Athletes such as Tiger Woods and Michael Vick are still recovering from embarrassing personal scandals as they try to regain the respect of the media and their fans.
Yet Armstrong’s scandal deals an even more significant blow to fans around the world who looked up to the seven-time Tour de France champion.
To the public, Armstrong wasn’t just the face of American cycling: he was an icon of hope and inspiration to millions who have suffered from cancer.
As the founder of Livestrong, a cancer charity which he started after his own cancer diagnosis in 1996, Armstrong showed the public that a debilitating disease didn’t have to stop them from pursuing their passions.
Two weeks ago, Armstrong stepped down as the chairman of Livestrong, leaving behind a legacy that will forever be marred by the doping scandal while shadowing all of his past philanthropic and athletic accomplishments.
Perhaps it’d be easier to sympathize with Armstrong if he were willing to admit any wrongdoing.
The cyclist’s fall from prominence is a telling reminder that the hope and inspiration athletes give that may make for best-selling biographies, good conversation and even personal motivation is often only temporary.
When major superstars make wrong choices that lead to colossal consequences and fail to live up to the expectations set for them, we are again reminded that Christ is the only One who can provide true hope. No controversy or scandal can ever dampen His image or take away from the satisfaction He gives.