Lance Armstrong is the most famous rider in cycling history, but for all the wrong reasons. The American won the sport’s most prestigious event, the Tour De France, seven consecutive times from 1999-2005.
However, his reputation was tarnished when he admitted to doping after his retirement. As a result, all of his achievements from August 1998 including his Tour De France titles were taken away.
There were always suspicions about Armstrong’s performances throughout his career. Armstrong denied these accusations, and often said he had never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
In July 2012, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) accused Armstrong of doping following testimonies from Armstrong’s former teammates and blood samples from the latter stages of Armstrong’s career.
Three months later, USADA confirmed Armstrong would be banned from all sports that follow the World Anti-Doping Agency code as well as stripping him of every victory he collected from August 1998 to present.
How did Lance Armstrong cheat?
There were no fancy drugs involved in Armstrong’s thorough plan to cheat.
It was simply a case of repeated blood doping (removing blood, storing it in the fridge, and then transfusing it back into the body during the race) and the use of testosterone to aid recovery between races.
Blood doping improves physical endurance by boosting an athlete’s ability to oxygenate their muscles.
This is a significant advantage in cycling as the riders spend up to six hours in the saddle on a daily-basis and face some of the highest hills in Europe.
Claims that Armstrong further cheated with the use of motors on his bike have been backed up by recent videos on social media.
Antoine Vayer shared images of the American rider after Jean-Pierre Verdy, the former chief of French Anti-Doping, accused Armstrong of using motors on his bike.
This accusation has never been officially proved and most of the damage to Armstrong’s reputation has already been done after his blood doping scandal.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey at the beginning of 2013, Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his seven Tour De France wins.
He said he never felt bad or felt it was wrong when he doped. Armstrong stated that his “mythic, perfect story” was “one big lie.”
It remains one of the most dramatic sports interviews ever.
Everyone was shocked by the news, even though there were suspicions. Armstrong resigned from the Livestrong Foundation, a charity he founded which provides support for people affected by cancer.
Armstrong’s fans were hurt, especially those who looked up to him and saw him as a role model.
“Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling,” reacted cycling President Pat McQuaid. “He deserves to be forgotten in cycling. Something like this must never happen again.”
Why was Lance Armstrong’s cheating scandal so bad?
The longevity of Armstrong’s blood doping, the bribes and bullying that took place to keep it a secret for over a decade, means Armstrong’s method of cheating will remain the worst sporting scandal ever.
USADA described it as “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program” they had ever seen.
Cycling is still feeling some of the effects of Armstrong’s actions after the sport was severely damaged when the investigation became public.