It couldn’t have been the farewell he envisioned.
And it certainly lacked the fanfare usually reserved for global sports icons.
Indeed, when Lance Armstrong ended his international cycling career at the Tour Down Under in Australia (where he finished a disappointing 65th) in late January, the story, it seemed, was just shifting gears.
That’s because Armstrong, the yellow-bracelet-donning cancer survivor who absolutely owned the Tour de France from 1999-2005, dismounted under a fresh storm cloud of suspicion over new doping allegations. The latest stem from former teammate Floyd Landis, whose own admissions of drug use caused the forfeiture of his 2006 Tour victory.
And we thought baseball had a problem…
So now the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is involved, which is pretty bad news for Armstrong. A federal grand jury in Los Angeles, meantime, has been hearing months of testimony about cheating in the sport. Apparently Armstrong’s name has come up more than a few times.
Publicly, Lance has appeared fairly nonchalant: "I never lose sleep ... ever,” he recently told reporters. “It has no effect on my life — zero. That's for other people to deal with.”
Anyway, it got me thinking about professional athletes, particularly those whose personas transcend sports. I realize the jury is still out, literally, on Armstrong — and if you’ve ever waited on a tax refund, you know the feds take their sweet time.
But I wonder if Lance’s image can withstand this latest onslaught, regardless of the outcome. In cases like these, even if there’s no conviction, full vindication is rare. Does Armstrong’s body of work override anything short of a smoking gun? Can he outrun the naysayers and emerge a still-revered hero?
As always, I invite your feedback.