The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

August 25, 2012

Sunday Forum: ‘Livestrong’ athlete leaves uncertain legacy

‘Livestrong’ athlete leaves uncertain legacy

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency erased 14 years of Lance Armstrong’s career Friday — including his record seven Tour de France titles — and banned him for life from the sport that made him a hero to millions of cancer survivors after concluding he used banned substances, according to The Associated Press.

USADA said it expected cycling’s governing body to take similar action, but the International Cycling Union was measured in its response, saying it first wanted a full explanation on why Armstrong should relinquish Tour titles he won from 1999 through 2005.

The Amaury Sport Organization that runs the world’s most prestigious cycling race said it would not comment until hearing from the ICU and USADA, which contends the cycling body is bound by the World Anti-Doping Code to strip Armstrong of one of the most incredible achievements in sports.

Armstrong, who retired a year ago and whose story and success helped sell millions of “Livestrong” plastic yellow wrist bracelets, said Thursday that he would no longer challenge USADA and declined to exercise his last option by entering arbitration. He denied again that he ever took banned substances in his career, calling USADA’s investigation a “witch hunt” without a shred of physical evidence.

Here’s how sports columnists across the country reacted to the news:

‘Hollow heroes’

Sounding a lot like Pete Rose when he accepted baseball’s lifetime ban, Lance Armstrong said “enough is enough” Thursday and left those who have always defended his reputation wondering which way to turn.

Armstrong said he would not accept sanctions but chose not to fight the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s charges against him. The USADA said it had “overwhelming evidence” in the form of eyewitness testimony and lab results that Armstrong was doping during his run of seven Tour de France titles.

Those titles will be stripped from his record, and he will be banned from the sport. Although, since Armstrong is 40, I’m not sure what that ban amounts to.

The difference between Rose, the all-time hits king, and Armstrong, the all-time champion cyclist who elevated his sport, is that one was just a degenerate gambler. Armstrong, as a cancer survivor, has raised millions for cancer research and said that work will continue to be his focus as he moves on.

But the fact that a man once so adamant about his innocence has chosen to walk away from this fight says it all. Far removed from the age of innocence, we live in an era of hollow heroes.

Tim Cowlishaw,

The Dallas Morning News

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