Lance Armstrong was born at Methodist hospital in Oak Cliff. He was raised in Plano, but when Armstrong was Mr. Tour de France, before he was banned for life from professional sports and stripped of his titles and endorsement deals, we claimed him as a native son.
Now Armstrong isn’t just suspected or accused of cheating. He is an admitted cheater. Armstrong used performing enhancing drugs, against U.S. Anti Doping Agency rules, and he lied about it under oath. Back when I was an undergrad at the University of Texas, my peers nearly ran me out of the Daily Texan newsroom for rolling my eyes and going, “steroids,” when I saw our front page, with its overblown photo of Armstrong wearing the yellow jersey, a day after he won his fourth Tour de France. That is how much Texans love Lance Armstrong. No one wanted to believe he would cheat, even as he was performing superhuman feats on the racecourse.
(I assumed at the time that “doping” meant “steroids.” Now I know that cheating cyclists often use blood thinners, among other tricks, to give them an unfair advantage.)
Anyway, the thing that burns me up about Armstrong, Texas Monthly’s “Bum Steer” of the year, is what his cheating did to the athletes who devote their lives to the sport of cycling but also live clean. This struck home for me when I read Ian Dille’s article about his pal Pat McCarty, an Allen native and one of Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service teammates, in the same magazine. McCarty retired from pro cycling in 2010. Dille writes that his friend’s career was cut short because, while he was enormously talented as well as dedicated, he couldn’t compete with athletes who were doping. Armstrong and other pro dopers ruined the careers of promising young cyclists because of greed.
Professional cycling fascinates me because it is the only sport I know of that requires an athlete to sacrifice his own performance for the sake of the team leader’s performance. I can imagine how much pressure that puts on an already extremely competitive athlete to win. But cheating is despicable. And Lance Armstrong is a cheater. Now I can say it in Texas without fear of persecution.