The Top Sports Science Stories of 2012: Lance Armstrong's Fall

USADA charges the cyclist with doping

Lance Armstrong with his yellow jerseys.     Photo: Twitter

Lance Armstrong didn’t just dope, he was the ringleader of the grandest doping scheme in the recent history of team sports. That’s what the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said in October when they released a roughly 200-page report that detailed the violations committed by Armstrong as he pedaled his way to seven Tour de France victories after fighting off cancer. The report painted Armstrong as a bully. The cyclist didn’t respond. He kept a promise he made in an August 23 statement in which he said he would not fight doping charges brought against him by USADA. He kept quiet.

In late October, the International Cycling Union agreed with USADA’s findings and officially stripped Armstrong of all his victories from August 1, 1998 forward—including seven Tour de France wins—and banned him from the sport. All of Armstrong’s sponsors dropped him. He resigned as the chairman and from the board of Livestrong, a foundation he built to help others in their fight against cancer.

Armstrong certainly wasn’t alone in his doping. The USADA report said that 20 of the 21 podium finishers in the Tour de France during the seven years that Armstrong won had been directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations, or by exceeding the UCI hematocrit threshold. The report showed what the book by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle already had: that the science of doping was more advanced than the testing used to catch dopers, and when it wasn’t, the athletes used childish tricks and a culture of silence to avoid getting caught. The thing is, like Hamilton, many of the other riders took to the press and apologized for lying and cheating. Armstrong didn’t fight the charges, didn’t take to the press, and didn’t apologize. Through the end of the year, he remained quiet, only posting the random tweet. One of those tweets included a photo of him resting on his back on a dark couch in a room with his framed yellow jerseys in the background—a strange and quiet position for someone who had charged so hard, so long, so publicly.

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