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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Armstrong stripped of athletic fame and public respect

 So far, 2012 has been a disappointing year for athletes.

Numerous picture-perfect athletes have had their reputations shattered. After an MVP start to his season, San Francisco Giant Melky Cabrera was caught using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) on Aug. 15. Then, a week later, Oakland A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon was suspended for 50 games for the same reason.

As if that weren’t enough, on Aug. 24, Hall of Fame biker Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after allegedly using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, or doping.

Shortly after the news broke, his personal life took a hit as he stepped down as the face of Livestrong, a branch of Nike that supports cancer. This raises the question: Has Armstrong, who was doing the doping that all successful cyclists were doing at the time, suffered too much of hit?

After he lost all his biking titles and awards, Nike cut all ties to Armstrong.  Armstrong gained heroic status as a cancer survivor who battled testicular cancer and came back to win seven Tour de France titles.

As it turned out, however, Armstrong wasn’t the hero he appeared to be. He even persuaded teammates to dope all the while concealing this harsh reality from the public. This development has permanently destroyed Armstrong’s image in the cycling world as well as in the eyes of the public.

However, the pendulum has swung too far toward destroying Armstrong’s reputation. His resignation from Livestrong was absolutely pointless; he became the face of Livestrong because he fought against cancer and was able to return to athletics after his ordeal.

While his lies have hurt Armstrong’s legacy greatly, he was not the only cyclist doping. Many cyclists, teammates and opposing cyclists, were doping and it was a part of the culture of the sport.

Had Armstrong not doped, it would have been extremely difficult for him to stay competitive in a sport in which athletes were consistently using unfair advantages.

He was lauded because of his perseverance, not because of his athletic success upon his return. Because of this, he remained a positive figure for those struggling against cancer.

People believe that Armstrong is defined by his success, but they often forget the trials and tribulations he endured to succeed. He defeated one of the most malignant types of cancer to come back to compete in cycling.

While the use of PEDs is certainly not acceptable in athletics, there should be a line separating social life and professional career. In Lance Armstrong’s case, people have muddled the two and have allowed circumstances of one to affect the other.

Armstrong was not the image of Livestrong because he attained success, but rather because of his ambition that drove him to return to competition after battling cancer.

People are focusing too much on the unethical ways in which he attained his success and are forgetting that his defining characteristic is the adversity that he overcame in order to compete.

Armstrong may not be the hero we all thought. But his comeback is still one we can admire and learn lessons from.

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