Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Things aren’t looking good for Lance Armstrong.
For years, there have been accusations that he doped en route to winning seven Tour de France titles.
First, it was former teammate Floyd Landis. Then, on a recent “60 Minutes” show, former teammate Tyler Hamilton also said Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs.
“60 Minutes” also said that George Hincapie, the only rider on all of Armstrong’s winning Tour teams, told federal investigators that the two supplied each other with banned substances.
But should any of this matter?
I say, “no.”
It’s easy to look at Armstrong in a plethora of ways. You can take his story from battling back from cancer to become one of the world’s best athletes as amazingly inspirational. But he also can be looked at as the guy who, despite all the negative test results, might soon be the face of cheating.
He might have to give back all his Tour wins. He might get indicted. His once tight inner circle is already starting to crumble around him.
But too often, people forget that cycling is a sport. Just like steroids in baseball, doping in cycling was everywhere. It seems everyone was doing it. That doesn’t make it right, but then again, in a world where that was the only way to stay on top, most people would have done it.
Most have admitted it. Armstrong hasn’t, but the federal case against him and previous articles in Sports Illustrated are telling.
But again, does any of this matter considering what Armstrong has actually done, inside and outside of cycling?
The Lance Armstrong Foundation, Livestrong, has done as much or more for cancer and cancer research than any other organization.
Since its formation in 1997, the amount of money Livestrong has raised for cancer research is eye-popping. The inspiration it has provided for people with cancer and those who have survived cancer can’t be quantified.
Locally, proceeds from August’s inaugural Ride 4 Yellow cycling event amounted to more than $130,000.
With Armstrong as the face of Livestrong and nationwide efforts such as Ride 4 Yellow, is chasing a man who’s never tested positive really worth all this trouble? Does Armstrong’s impact on cancer research outweigh trying to prove he might have cheated?
The debate certainly isn’t that clear-cut, but those questions seem to be the basis of any discussion.
But given the fact that Armstrong never has had a positive test, the debate continues to revolve around public stories of the he-said, she-said variety.
And given what keeps coming out, such as the “60 Minutes” report and, eventually, the findings of a federal investigation, Armstrong likely is looking at being found guilty of cheating.
If that is the case — and Armstrong will likely never admit he doped — what happens to his organization?
If the face of it crumbles, will the organization follow?
Judging by the way Livestrong has done things for the past 12-plus years, though, the organization likely will remain strong.
And through it all, it’s important thing to remember is that cycling is a sport — and that sports aren’t, and shouldn’t be, the be-all and end-all of someone’s contributions.
No matter how this ends, whether Armstrong is guilty or not, we should all remember him not as the cyclist, but as the man who has done so much for cancer research.
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com