September 2nd, 2005 16:00 EST
Lance Armstrong Stays Strong
Lance, a sports hero and cycling champion, recently ousted as a cheater and treated as a king of a banned blood booster, still stands firm on his innocence protestation. Lance, an inspirational figure who defeated cancer to win the tour de France-- the world`s best bicycle race-- more often than anyone in History, is facing another race, another battle. Armstrong is not giving up, despite controversial allegations and related harsh accusations that he was using blood booster substances. He steadily restates that he never used such substances.
Armstrong was comfortable when talking about it during a broadcasted interview held on August 27. He cited, as strong evidence, the remaining negative samples indicating that he was not actually using EPO during the 1999 Tour.
He had taken his first Tour only 18 months after finishing his cancer treatments and had dominated for seven years.
It seemed impossible, too good to be true. ", said Armstrong.
According to him, it is much more a press problem than a French population one.
"I`ve had great relations with the French people.", he commented. "The only person who`s sticking by the story is L`Equipe."
He sees these latest accusations as having little meaning.
"I`m taking this one a little easier than some of the allegations over the years, because I am now retired. I do not have to worry about going back to France and racing again. So in that sense, I`m relieved."
Dr Lawrence Einhorn, a cancer specialist who treated Armstrong during the last tour, confirms the athlete`s innocence, saying that Armstrong was monitored on a six months basis.
Armstrong is also a fervent supporter of the struggle against drugs ", said Dr Einhorn.
August 2005, L`EQUIPE, a French sports daily, outlined allegations charging Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs, steroids called EPO (erythropoietin). L`Equipe reported that Armstrong was tested positive from six frozen urine samples supplied during his victorious 1999 Tour. Frozen until 2004, because EPO could not be properly detected in urine samples before.
A Hero or a villain? It depends on what side of the Atlantic Ocean the answer is from.
In the United States, where Armstrong is seen as a figure of national pride, many people are angry to hear the French dare treat him as a cheater, and a lier. They are skeptical, even critical, of this story. Some link this unpleasant happening to weighty subjects that have always created divergence between America and France, such as war in Iraq. They are convinced that Armstrong is being brought down because he is much bigger than his sport and has come to mean so much more than a champion.
Americans are more invested in him than they were in others: Mark McGuire or Barry Bonds. Armstrong is quite different, not only because of Live Strong yellow bracelets, but also because he goes over there and beats regularly them. He is a conqueror who wins an exotic race.
For many people, their hero is the only athlete to be too tested.
Tested and retested because French never believed how Armstrong, an American, inexplicably walked alone seven straight times along the cycling diamond road to become the greatest figure in the sport`s history.
Polls done by ESPN show: 72% do not find any credibility in what l`Equipe has released, while 28% do.
On the other side of Atlantic across from America, Armstrong`s grand triumph has always been surrounded by doubts and most recently by accusations.
We were all fooled. ", said Jean Marie Leblanc, the director of the Tour de France.
Armstrong was not only a myth but, ultimately, a lie. ", said an editorialist.
Can`t anyone dominate a sport without the help of drugs, when it has been shaken by a series of drug scandals?
Is it true that French are jealous to see their sporting jewel being routinely dominated by an outsider? Jealous to see their athletes being outclassed by an American?
Isn`t it, again, a hate-love relationship or simply a kind of envy that has always portrayed relations between the both sides of the ocean?
EPO is a hormone that increases red globules production, helping to regulate blood composition the body needs. EPO can boost performance by 30%.
Gulp-down chemicles, like EPO, are undetectable during frequent, obligatory urine tests. That is why the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has suggested freezing relevant portions of blood or urine samples until new and better tests come on line. It is an illegal substance in sports competitions. Armstrong says, It`s tabloid journalism, a witch-hunt, "
France says: the cheat couldn`t anymore be shielded. It`s the end of the lie. "
The truth is that fans of cycling, sports in general, or simply non-fans that have been praising Armstrong`s legend can hardly digest such a bitter and overturning story.
In July 2005, after his seventh triumph, Armstrong climbs down off the bike. One month later, he comes back again, this time racing for his reputation. Can we say that the damage to the Armstrong`s legend is already brewing?
Hey, Lance! Retired, but still have your counter-attacking skill, don`t you?
Links: Daily news sports, mg.co.za, linternaute.com, nouvelobs.com, lancearmstrong.com