The legacy of Lance Armstrong goes beyond sports

Cyclist Lance Armstrong visiting the NIH (National Institutes of Health)The theme of many fallen sports stars is a legacy of behaving badly. The legacy of Lance Armstrong is one of two very different sides to different stories.

Lance Armstrong sports hero

From strictly the sports side there is Lance Armstrong the sports cheater.  For years as Lance has won seven Tour de France titles he was accused of using performance enhancing drugs.

Now the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) claims they can prove that Lance Armstrong used  banned substances and they are trying to wipe out all of Armstrong's cycling career, including his record seven Tour de France titles.

Ironically Armstrong never failed a drug test at the Tour de France. Armstrong was tested in competition at numerous other events and never failed a drug test.

The cynical side wonders that even if the cycling world knew of Lance's cheating would they look the other way as they pause to think about what good Lance has brought to their sport.  Folks who would have never taken the time to watch cycling took an interest in it because of Lance Armstrong.

It is hard not to be cynical of a system that strips someone of a title years after it was won, especially after so many tests that supposedly said that Lance Armstrong was clean.

Lance Armstrong hero of the human spirit

Lance Armstrong may have fallen from the good graces of his sport, but for many people Lance will still be a hero of the human spirit.

In 1996, Lance was a 25 year old man fighting for his life against testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs. That is one battle that no one can take away from Lance, he beat cancer against overwhelming odds.

Here's a pretty strong headline from Forbes, "Why Lance Armstrong Still Matters."  Quoting from the Forbes article, "Yet, for all of the money raised and events organized by his foundation, Armstrong’s greatest gift may be one of inspiration."

The Legacy of Lance

Lance claims he is being railroaded by a powerful agency, and he just would rather focus his attention elsewhere rather that to keep fighting against a powerful machine.

The USADA is doing what they can to strip Lance Armstrong of his titles. What is anyone doing to strip the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens of their records for using performance enhancing drugs?

What has Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens done that comes close to creating an organization like Livestrong, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, that gives hope to millions of people affected by cancer?

In a statement on the Lance Armstrong Blog he states: "This October, my Foundation will celebrate 15 years of service to cancer survivors and the milestone of raising nearly $500 million. We have a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction. I have a responsibility to all those who have stepped forward to devote their time and energy to the cancer cause. I will not stop fighting for that mission.”

The goal of It's Only Sports it to look at sports beyond the game that is played on the field. Maybe we will never know to what extent, if any, Lance Armstrong cheated on the sports field of cycling.  But we do know that Lance cheated death in the game of life.  He gives people with cancer hope for winning and for many that is more important than anything he could ever do as an athlete.

The story of Lance Armstrong is one case where the legacy of the sports hero is surpassed by the legacy of a man who became a hero above and beyond his sport.

Somehow, in the end, in the game of life, the more they take away from Lance, the more he comes out a hero.

Photo: Cyclist Lance Armstrong visiting the NIH (National Institutes of Health)