Lance Armstrong's hotly anticipated appearance at the starting line of the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii this fall has been all the buzz in the niche world of triathlons.
Could Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor, move on to dominate another sport?
The tantalizing answer to that question might never be known. Armstrong won't be able to compete in the granddaddy of all Ironman competitions -- the Ironman World Championships held each fall in Hawaii -- due to the most recent blood-doping charges against him. The only way that will change is if the charges against him are dropped before the Oct. 13 race.
Among the sorely disappointed: islanders who make a living off the race, hundreds of competitors who would have gotten to tell their grandchildren about the time they raced a legendary athlete, and the poor chap who bid $40,000 for the chance to join Armstrong at the starting line as part of a fund-raiser for Armstrong's cancer-fighting charity, Livestrong.
It was shaping up to be one of the most closely watched races in the history of the grueling endurance sport precisely because of Armstrong's participation.
Armstrong won a warm-up version of the race earlier this month, the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii. (That race, which spans a mere 70.3 miles, is a primer for the world championship, which involves a 2.4-mile ocean swim and a 112-mile bike ride followed by a 26.2-mile marathon.)
It was all adding to the superhuman legend that surrounds the man, even as it gave fodder to critics who have long believed Armstrong guilty of using performance enhancers.
Armstrong insists he has not taken any performance-enhancing drugs and has taken to Twitter, among other venues, to plead his case.
Regardless, he won't be able to compete in any World Triathlon Corp.-sanctioned events until the mess is cleared up. (That includes an Ironman France race he was expected to run later this month as a tuneup and qualifier for Hawaii.) WTC rules "dictate an athlete is ineligible to compete during an open investigation. Armstrong is therefore suspended from competing in WTC-owned and licensed races pending further review," the WTC said in a statement to CNN.
Still, some are holding out hope.
On Twitter on Thursday morning, someone offering Lance Armstrong these words of support in hashtag-laden tweet-speak: "hopefully you can solve your issues soon and be ready to #kickass in #kona .rest of the PRO'S feel threatened #triathlon"
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