By Lisa Hoehn
The Active Times
The Lance Armstrong doping scandal has not been one that's easy to stay on top of. From a large cast of players to ping-pong style lawsuits, “blood doping” to alleged conspiracy and coercion, "breaking news" in this saga happens almost on the daily. And given that, until very recently the pro cycling community was dominated by a Code of Silence, the world is one that we, the public, had known very little about.
But as of this week, it's confirmed -- Lance Armstrong, the public's ever-fighting, ever-denying, ever-Tweeting cancer hero, used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) throughout his cycling career. He told Oprah Winfrey, and the world will know!
This stark change in attitude came about thanks to a 1,000-plus page "Reasoned Decision" that was released by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in October, which lays out Armstrong's drug use -- what, how, when, with whom -- from his first Tour in 1998 all the way through 2010. This included sworn testimony from 26 people -- including 11 of Armstrong's former teammates -- and cited documentary evidence such as emails, scientific data, laboratory test results and even financial payments as corroborating evidence. And as sponsors dropped left and right, Armstrong was, seemingly, left without much choice than to come clean.
|Slideshow: Lance Armstrong Myths Debunked|
Through all of the confusion, though, there has (unsurprisingly) been a lot of ... well, misinformation flying around. Myths, if you will. Some were started by Lance or his lawyers, others by his friends and still others just by the general public, but each of them seems to lend itself to a version of Lance that benefits exactly one person -- himself.
So, read for yourself. Lance Armstrong myths: Busted.
MYTH: Cycling organizations and media are unfairly targeting Lance for PEDs (even though everyone was doping) because he was the best rider.
FACT: Lance has been targeted because he was the most skilled -- and aggressive -- doper, not because of his cycling. According to USADA, Lance had "ultimate control not only over his own drug use, which was extensive, but over the doping culture of his team," going so far as to intimidate teammates into saddling up to drugs -- or to face being replaced. What's more, Lance had final say over the "small army" of doctors, directors and drug smugglers his team employed -- an army that was paid not only to stay one step ahead of drug testers, but also to design and facilitate an intense, systematic drug regimen "in large part to benefit Armstrong."
MYTH: Lance never failed a single drug test.
FACT: Armstrong not only failed one drug test over the years but he flunked two. The first alleged positive came during the 1999 Tour de France for cortisone (which a doctor remedied by writing a backdated prescription to treat a saddle sore); the second, in the 2001 Tour de Sussie where UCI officials allegedly stepped in to cover it up (soon after, Lance made a $125,000 donation to the organization).
MYTH: Lance can still be considered the best cyclist of his time -- his Tour rivals were doping, too, but he still took home the yellow jerseys.
FACT: Sure, the Lance era is generally regarded and often referred to as a dark, sordid time in cycling history in regards to drug use. In fact, 20 of the 21 Tour podium finishers from 1999 through 2005 have been directly tied to doping, in one form or another. But that doesn't mean that every talented athlete succumbed to the pressure. Take, for instance, Christophe Bassons, a talented French cyclist who rode during the 1999 Tour (the first of seven consecutive) and publicly criticized the prevalence of PEDs in the peloton. After hearing of it, Armstrong subjected Bassons to "very merciless and venomous" teasing "much like a playground bully." Isolated and ostracized, Bassons quickly faded, then dropped out of from the pro scene. But could he have taken Armstrong in competition if the playing field were clean? "We'll never know," said Jonathan Vaughters, a former USPS rider. But "Bassons was a talented rider, for sure."
MYTH: Lance founded Livestrong, and that's helped millions of cancer fighters and survivors all over the world -- that's more important than any PEDs or silly bicycle races.
FACT: It's true, Livestrong is a fundamentally good charity, earning the "top rating" of an A- from CharityWatch.com based on the percentage of spending that goes toward programming (though many might be surprised to know how little the foundation gives to cancer research). But the relationship between Lance and Livestrong is more complicated. In a 2012 article in Outside, Bill Gifford sums it up nicely:
"Livestrong spends massively on advertising, PR, and 'branding,' all of which helps preserve Armstrong's marketability at a time when he's under fire. Meanwhile, Armstrong has used the goodwill of his foundation to cut business deals that have enriched him personally, an ethically questionable move."
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