The Lance Armstrong Story: Success and Doping

20 May, 2020
The case of Lance Armstrong has probably had greater repercussions than any other case in the history of sport.
 

Lance Armstrong was, for many years, the biggest name in international track cycling. The former American cyclist was a living legend, but everything changed when one of the most serious doping scandals in history came to light.

Armstrong’s story had been full of many high points but also many low ones, and there’s a direct or close relationship between them all.

Lance Armstrong: overcoming adversity

Before the scandal, Lance Armstrong was most known for his strength and resilience. This is because his best times came after overcoming testicular cancer, which was diagnosed in 1996.

Lance Armstrong was just 26 years old at this point, and although he underwent surgery to remove a testicle and promptly began chemotherapy, doctors predicted a low chance of survival.

However, Armstrong fought against all the odds and even showed great foresight in doing so. He had chosen less damaging chemotherapy for his lung capacity because he fully intended to resume his sports career later. Leaving aside the illegal practices that later came to light, this was one of the reasons that he was able to compete at the highest level after he had recovered.

Lance Armstrong: sporting achievements

To understand just how big of a scandal the Armstrong case was, you only need to look at his long list of achievements on the tracks. Here are just some of the feats that this American achieved during his career:

  • Tour de France: this is the most important event in international cycling, and Armstrong was the king. He won no fewer than seven titles in a row between 1999 and 2005.
 
Lance Armstrong competing in a race.

  • Olympic Games: he also stood out in Sydney 2000, winning a silver medal.

Retirement and return: Lance Armstrong

Armstrong initially retired from professional cycling in 2005 but took part in the 2006 New York Marathon to raise money for a cancer charity.

However, two years later, he announced his return to cycling. But the best he could achieve in the next three years was third place in the Tour de France.

2012: doping and sanctions

Barely a year after retiring for a second time, Lance Armstrong returned to the center stage. But this time for the wrong reasons: he was accused of systematic doping.

The organization that accused Armstrong of doping infringements was the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Later, the Internation Cycling Union (UCI) upheld this decision and removed all of his wins since 1998.

However, this was nothing new. The American had already faced charges multiple times during his career, particularly when he first retired. What was different this time was the support of official bodies, meaning that people took the accusation and the consequences seriously.

 

For example, theWorld Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), supported the USADA claims from the outset. WADA is the highest authority fighting against drugs and doping in the world.

Lance Armstrong during an interview.
Image: YouTube OWN screenshot.

Armstrong’s confession

Later, Armstrong confessed on Oprah Winfrey’s popular television show that he had used banned substances to improve his cycling performance. During his confession, he claimed to have used blood transfusions, growth hormones, and EPO (erythropoietin, a stimulating agent that facilitates oxygen exchange by creating red blood cells).

He went on to say that, in his opinion, “It’s not humanly possible” to win the Tour de France seven consecutive times without using these substances. When asked about when he started what he calls “The EPO generation,” he said that he started, “In the mid-1990s”.

In short, the Lance Armstrong case was a paradigm shift. It showed how advanced doping methods were as well as the tricks used to hide it. However, in the end, the mask had slipped and exposed one of the most shocking frauds of all time.

 
  • Abt, S. Lance Armstrong. Enciclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lance-Armstrong
  • Lance Armstrong’s Confession | Oprah’s Next Chapter | Oprah Winfrey Network. YouTube OWN. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_0PSZ59Aws
  • C. Arribas. Octubre de 2012. ‘Caso Lance Armstrong’: “El dopaje más sofisticado de la historia”. El País. https://elpais.com/deportes/2012/10/10/actualidad/1349888438_109227.html