Lance Armstrong has said since the first time he was asked that he has never used performance-enhancing drugs during a cycling career that led to an unprecedented seven Tour de France titles.
He has repeatedly said that he has been tested far more than other athletes and never tested positive.
Times staff writers Lance Pugmire and Helene Elliott talked Wednesday on a video chat about the overwhelming evidence the United States Anti-Doping Agency released that Armstrong not only used performance-enhancing drugs, but participated in an orchestrated campaign of distribution and cover-ups.
Said Elliott: “Lance Armstrong had become part of our national culture.… This hits people on a very deep level and it becomes a question of how it affects his image. Do you look at him any differently now? This will be a topic of huge public debate for a long time.”
Armstrong, of course, has been a prominent spokesman for cancer research, and his success on that front clearly came largely because of his high profile from the tour victories. But this evidence indicates very strongly that those victories were fueled by illicit substances.
Does that diminish what he has achieved outside the competition?
“The cheats somehow stay ahead of the testing,” Elliott said, also referring to the drug problems that have affected track and field.
Many who have benefitted from the millions of dollars raised in the 15 years the Livestrong Foundation has been around may contend that Armstrong’s legacy will be his work to raise money to fight cancer, regardless of how his athletic success was achieved.
But USADA’s 1,000-page report on Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service team, many others will contend, puts a very different slant on defining Armstrong’s career. Support for Livestrong has been as strong as ever since Armstrong stopped fighting USADA in the wake of the agency’s banning Armstrong from competition and stripping him of his titles. We’ll see what happens now.