Armstrong’s fall

10/27/2012

Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace is complete. The cyclist must now ask whether the triumphs were worth the tribulation and disgrace.

After years of successfully denying that he used performance-enhancing drugs, Mr. Armstrong’s world came crashing down over the past two weeks. Evidence amassed in a United States Anti-Doping Agency report makes a credible case that the seven-time Tour de France winner not only used banned substances, but also furthered a sophisticated doping scheme that included blood transfusions as well as illegal drugs, and involved his teammates on two racing teams.

Mr. Armstrong has lost millions of dollars a year in endorsements. Long-time supporters such as Nike and Anheuser-Busch quickly abandoned the cyclist who dominated the racing world between 1998 and 2005. Trek bicycles, Giro helmets, Oakley sunglasses, 24-Hour Fitness, and supplement makers SRF and Honey Stinger joined the exodus.

Mr. Arnstrong stepped down as chairman of Livestrong, the cancer charity he founded. His seven Tour titles have been erased. He is banned from competitive cycling for life. The International Olympic Committee may take back the bronze medal he won at the 2000 games in Sydney.

Doping in bicycle racing did not originate with Mr. Armstrong. In fact, for years he appeared to be a shining beacon of purity in a sport repeatedly rocked by illegal drug use.

His repeated denials of drug use over the years were believed by fans caught up in his almost miraculous story. He beat testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain, then returned to rule the cycling world and establish a nearly unmatchable record of racing excellence.

Fans now realize that Mr. Armstrong’s denials were lies. They will have to learn to separate the bicycle racer who used any means necessary to win from the foundation he created to support cancer survivors and their families.

Mr. Armstrong maintains that he’s the innocent victim of a witch hunt. The man who refused to surrender to cancer and never gave in to a racing opponent says he gave up this fight to get on with his life.

But fans know the truth, as he does.