Lance Armstrong is a competitive cyclist who won the Tour de France seven times from 1999 to 2005. He was stripped of those titles in 2012 when the Union Cycliste Internationale acknowledged that Armstrong was guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs and techniques.
He denied the accusations for years, telling senior editor Michael Hall in 2001, “I can only assert my innocence. I’ve never tested positive; I’ve never been caught with anything.” But then in January 2013, according to Ian Dille, “Oprah got Lance Armstrong to publicly admit what we already knew: he used a variety of performance enhancing drugs to win seven Tour de France titles.”
There is no doubt that Lance is an extraordinary competitor. Born in 1971, he grew up mostly in Plano, where he cycled competitively in his teens before moving to Austin in 1990. In 1996 he was the top-ranked cyclist in the world when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which had spread to his lungs and brain. He went through four rounds of chemotherapy, and in 1997, doctors told Armstrong he was cancer-free. He founded the Livestrong Foundation (initally named the Lance Armstrong Foundation) that same year, the organization that adopted the yellow bracelet as its emblem.
He was a member of the U.S. Postal team from 1998 to 2005, during which time he won the Tour de France seven times. In 2000 he won a bronze medal in the Sydney Olympics. He announced his retirement from racing in 2005, returned in 2009, and retired again in 2011.
In June 2012 the United States Anti-Doping Agency released more than one thousand pages of evidence that he had in fact used PEDs, including testimony from eleven of Armstrong’s former teammates and friends. USADA filed a report that said Armstrong enforced “the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,” and the UCI accepted the findings. Armstrong did not appeal the decision. After denying doping allegations for years, he admitted his guilt in an widely-publicized interview with Oprah Winfrey in January 2013. A day later, the International Olympic Committee asked him to return his 2000 bronze medal.
Lance married Kristin Richard in 1998. The couple had three children before divorcing, in 2003. He later had two children with his girlfriend, Anna Hansen. He owns several Austin businesses including the Juan Pelota Café and the bike shop Mellow Johnny’s, and he is part owner of the downtown Austin bar Six Lounge. (Photo/Associated Press)
After decades as one of the most admired athletes on the planet and one of the toughest competitors ever to ride a bike, Lance Armstrong is facing a new challenge: how to come back from a very public disgrace.
As he readies himself for this summer’s Tour de France, the two-time winner is battling allegations in Europe and elsewhere that he uses performance-enhancing drugs. He insists he is clean. But proving that is turning out to be one of his toughest challenges yet. He doesn’t use performance-enhancing drugs, he insists, no matter what his critics in the European press and elsewhere say. And yet the accusations keep coming. How much scrutiny can the two-time Tour de France winner stand? A lot—which is a good thing, since he’s heading back up that hill again.
“There are some places where it wouldn’t matter if Pope Benedict XVI was winning the Tour. They would kill him. They would say he cheats, he steals, he has sex with little boys.”