The seven-times Tour de France champion fell from the pedestal after ending his career with unprecedent feats. Formerly a myth, he stopped being considered as such when it was discovered that, in every competition, he had use illicit substances or blood transfusions to enhance his performance. The case was followed closely by the Media.
From Hero to Villain
Lance Armstrong went from an immaculate example to a villain of sports. He lost all his titles, sponsorships and recognition. In November 2012, magazine Sports Illustratedpublished a list of the most anti-sports athletes of the year: Lance Armstrong was first. Ten years prior, the cyclist had been awarded with the Fair Play trophy and he was considered the sportsmen of the year by the same magazine.
Lance was born in Plano, Texas, in 1977 and began playing sports since childhood. His family’s situation was fragile, his father abandoned him and his mother, Linda Mooneyham, had to accumulate several jobs to be able to support him. For all of this, Lance, who spent much time alone, saw sports as his escape.
He started with swimming: he got up every day at 4:45 a.m. to go to practice, showing his fighter and competitive spirit from early on. Later on, when he turned thirteen, he discovered the triathlon and won the «Iron Kids Triathlon» contest. At 21, already in cycling, he won the World Road Cycling Championships.
Armstrong began his career with the Motorola team, in 1992, in the San Sebastián Competition, and he finished in the last place. In 1995 he won the competition and so began his cycle of successive wins.
The following year, after winning two medals, Lance Armstrong is diagnosed with testicular cancer, already with metastasis in the brain and lungs. Against all odds of survival, about 40%, Lance never gave up and despite the brutal treatment, he beat cancer. In the middle of this battle, the team for which he competed, Cofidis, ended his contract and the sportsman felt abandoned.
Later that year, when Lance knew the cancer was in remission, he quickly began to pedal for the improvement of his own personal and professional life.
In 1997, he created a foundation to support people with cancer, called LIVESTRONG. That same year he met Kristin Richard, who he married and had 3 children with.
He returned to competition in 1998, with a new team, the U.S. Postal Service, where he became the new leader. With this shirt, Lance Armstrong won the Tour de Franceseven consecutive times, the first in 1999 and the last in 2005.
During this period, Armstrong faced many accusations of doping. Suspicions claimed that Lance has used various drugs and also made blood transfusions to improve his performance during cycling competitions.
In 1999, David Walsh, a journalist from The Sunday Times, suspected of Lance Armstrong’s great feats and in an interview with The Guardian, in 2014, he said: “It was all a drug-addled circus and journalists who also knew that were part of the fraud, reporting on the cyclists as if they were heroes when they knew they were not.”
A growing number of suspicions
Also in 1999, during the opening stage of the Tour de France, panic spread within the team. Lance Armstrong accused the use of steroids in his body, a banned substance, unless it was used with medical prescription. After what happened, the team decided to forge a prescription. In 2004, this piece of information became public through a testimony of Emma O'Reilly, massager of the team Lance Armstrong led, U. S. Postal Service, with David Walsh..
Emma O’Reilly avoided asking questions when she saw the paintings of the hotel rooms being removed from the walls. According to her, they only needed a nail to hang the bags of purified blood to inject to their bodies. Those who didn’t join the "Doping Program” of the doctor Michel Ferrari were set aside by Lance Armstrong. Still, the popularity of the cyclist was big enough to make this accusation be forgotten.
About the suspicions of use of illicit substances, like EPO or corticoids, Lance Armstrong wrote on his official website: “I will simply restate what I have said many times: I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs”.
Suspicions about Lance Armstrong grew over the years. Emma O'Reilly and Betsy Andreu were the key among the 26 testimony to USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency), who has proved in 2012 that Lance Armstrong used illegal substances throughout his career.
Newspapers didn’t let it go; the news shooked the world of sports and made front covers in newspapers and magazines all around the world. Betsy Andreu was Frankie Andreu’s wife, one of the best friends and former colleagues of Lance Armstrong, who had been fired after rejecting the "Doping Program."
In January 2013, Lance Armstrong decided to confess everything in an interview conducted by Oprah Winfrey on Discovery Channel.
After Lance Armstrong’s confession, David Walsh and Emma O'Reilly considered, on The Late Show da RTE (Ireland National Public Service Media), that many issues had not been clear and the apologies were not enough…
Also in 2012, UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), in line with USADA, has decided to remove all the titles from Lance Armstrong and banish him forever from professional cycling. Lance Armstrong was also removed from the foundation that he founded himself.
Two years after the great confession on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show, Lance Armstrong gave an interview to BBC in which he made a retrospective of his past and his life after being banned from professional cycling. The interview was conducted by Dan Roan, the sports editor at the BBC.
Media apparatus beyond cycling
Lance’s romantic relationships were also high profile. Lance was famous for his penchant for celebrities.
In 1997, a year after being diagnosed with cancer, Lance married Kristin Richard. Together they had three children and after six months of marriage, Lance Armstrong divorced. After that, in 2003, he begins a new relationship with the famous singer Sheryl Crow. In 2005, they announce their engagement. The marriage never happened, because they separated in 2006, when Sheryl was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Their separation was still in the news, when Lance already had a new conquest: actress Kate Hudson. The relationship was short-lived, like all the others that followed, with the designer Tory Burch and the actress Ashley Olsen, 15 years younger.
His current relationship, which begun in 2008, is with Anna Hassen, a non-famous woman whom he met during a charity event. They have two children.
Nowadays, Lance Armstrong continues involved in sports and is dedicated, along with some friends, to a store related to bicycles and cycling accessories. At the same time, Lance Armstrong participates in charity events and also in events and support actions to people with cancer.