Lance Armstrong. His name has been dragged through the mud more than a farmer's plough. But before he became an international disgrace to the sport of bicycling, he was a champion athlete who defeated cancer and went on to achieve incredible feats in his sport.
At the time that he wrote It's Not About the Bike, Armstrong's doping scandal and accompanying controversies with his foundation were just coming into the light. He hadn't been part of a Hollywood power couple while engaged to Sheryl Crow, and he hadn't been banned from competing in all sports that participated in the World Anti-Doping Agency code (which is…all of them).
In 2000, when he wrote this book, he was still the king of the cycling world. He had won a World Championship, the Tour Dupont twice, and had a handful of stage victories in the Tour de France. He'd survived metastatic testicular cancer and—beyond anyone's expectations—been able to renew his career with incredible vigor. Racing with the US Postal bike team, he won Tour De France titles and a bronze medal in the Summer Olympics held in Sydney.
So what we're reading is the story of a man at the peak of his career. He was at the top of the world, he was king of the mountain: he was Leo standing on the bow of the Titanic. He had overcome a death sentence, infertility (from chemo), and a rough childhood. But reading this book now, when he know what we know, it's hard to admire the man.
We can't discount the fact that he's obviously an incredible competitor and an athlete with some extraordinary natural talent. But all of his achievements—like coming in third overall in the Tour de France—are soured because of his admission to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.
In fact, in 2012 the Union Cycliste Internationale upheld the USADA's decision to strip Armstrong of all of his achievements after 1998—including his seven Tour de France titles—and not even allocating his wins to other riders.
The UCI president Pat McQuaid even said, in response to the fact that Armstrong had led "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen", that "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. He deserves to be forgotten." (Source)
We tend to disagree with McQuaid, however. Armstrong shouldn't be forgotten. His epic downfall is a great lesson to us all, and one that will change the sport of cycling for the better.