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Fall From Grace

October 26th, 2012

Photo credit: Flickr user Flashing Pedals via Creative Commons

American cyclist Lance Armstrong was, until earlier this week, one of the most celebrated athletes in history. He won cycling’s most prestigious event, the Tour de France, an unheard of  7 times in a row  — from 1999-2005. He also won a bronze medal at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000. And he did all of this having battled cancer.

He was an inspiration and a hero to many, and his incredible wins made him famous and rich. He made millions of dollars from companies like Nike who supported him.

But Lance Armstrong was stripped of all of his Tour de France victories earlier this week when an investigation concluded that he had been cheating the whole time.

His name has been erased from the record books. He was banned from the sport for life. And many of the companies who gave him money want their millions of dollars back.

The cycling organization responsible for the decision,  Union Cycliste Internationale  (UCI), announced their decision on Monday. They were agreeing with the findings of an earlier investigation done by the  United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) .

UCI’s president, Pat McQuaid, said, “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling; he deserves to be forgotten in cycling.”

Tour de France organizers are supposed to announce today whether they’ll name new winners or just leave those spots blank. Rewriting history could get complicated since Mr. Armstrong apparently wasn’t the only one cheating. Many of the cyclists who spoke out about Mr. Armstrong admitted they were doing it too.

How did he cheat ? At its most basic, when you exercise oxygen is delivered to your blood that helps your muscles work faster and be stronger. When you dope, you add extra high levels of oxygen to your blood artificially from chemicals. And that’s not allowed.

What makes Lance Armstrong’s situation even more serious is that in addition to his own cheating, he’s also accused of bullying his teammates to cheat. The Tour de France is a team event even though Lance Armstrong is the one who repeatedly won it. Mr. Armstrong needed them to perform well so he could win.

Mr. Armstrong says to this day that he never cheated. And he says that he never failed any of the reportedly 218 drug tests he had to take while competing. But the hundreds of pages of testimony of so many others has made the evidence overwhelming.

Because he pressured others to do it, and because he was able to avoid getting caught, the USADA accused of Mr. Armstrong of running “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” Not just in cycling, but of any sport, in history.

In the meantime, Lance Armstrong has done a lot of good through a foundation he started called LIVESTRONG , helping others with cancer. Though he recently stepped down from that organization as well.

What do you think of all this?

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