Tour de shame: Cyclist king Armstrong unheroically gives up
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In recent days, the other American hero named Armstrong has not passed into immortality but has come crashing down to earth. To be sure, Lance Armstrong was not the equal of Neil Armstrong, mourned as the first man to walk on the moon. Lance Armstrong's feats were achieved on a bicycle, but he did seem to grace his sport with a sprinkling of stardust.
Stardust or forbidden performance-enhancing drugs? That suggestion shadowed Mr. Armstrong's extraordinary career, which included a record seven victories in the Tour de France. But this seeming super man strongly and consistently maintained his innocence of any doping. He still does.
Those claims can't help looking a little hollow now. In June, a year after he retired from professional road racing, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency brought formal charges of doping against him. Last week, he decided not to fight them anymore: "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say 'enough is enough.' For me, that time is now."
The USADA promptly erased 14 years of his career, including his famous tour victories, and banned him for life from the sport. If this refusal to take part in the "witch hunt" (as he called it) was the defiant and principled last stand of an innocent man, his point was irrevocably tainted by the finality of the result.
Lance Armstrong did not become famous by stopping when the going got rough; he did not beat testicular cancer by succumbing easily to the disease. For that Lance Armstrong, enough was never enough.
This Lance Armstrong has given up on his reputation without a fight. He goes defiantly, but it might as well have been meekly. For him, there is no out-sprinting the shame.
First Published August 31, 2012 12:00 am