Not all legends are good ones. This edition of our Cycling Legends ‘big reads’ series charts the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong. Some will question why we have done it, why not consign Armstrong’s story to the waste bin? The answer is it can’t be, he can’t be air-brushed out of cycling history because he is as much a part of it as any other top racer. He also helped shape it more than most, even though that wasn’t his purpose. That was winning, and winning became his obsession, then his master.

In some ways Lance Armstrong and late 1990s men’s pro road cycling were made for each other. Doping had been a factor for a long time, but the use of doping products and procedures escalated throughout the 1990s, especially among those contending for victory in the Grand Tours. It wasn’t everybody, but there were a good few.

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It got to the point that some top teams used in-house doping programmes, run under the supervision of skilful doctors. At least that was, in an odd Machiavellian way, some sort of responsible reaction to what was going on. The right reaction of course would have been for teams to get together and stop, but that was never going to happen, not at that time.

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Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France from 1999 until 2005; seven Tours, a record, but they were all taken away from him after investigations into how he won by an American federal agency and by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

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Not all legends are good ones. This edition of our Cycling Legends series charts the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong. Some will question why we have done it, why not consign Armstrong’s story to the waste bin? It can’t be, he can’t be air-brushed out of cycling history, because he is as much a part of it as any other top racer. He also helped shape it more than most, though that wasn’t his purpose. His purpose was winning, and winning at any cost. Armstrong was the uber-competitor in a sport where that is a highly prized quality.

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We look concisely at Armstrong’s early cycling career, and he was a really brilliant racer. We look at his fight with cancer. Then we try to set Lance Armstrong in some context by examining the history of doping in cycling. The story continues by profiling the people Armstrong had around him when he returned to cycling in 1998, through to the end of 2005.

His seven Tour de France victories are considered in the light of USADA’s findings, and other key information. Then we look at Armstrong’s second return to cycling in 2009 and 2010; at his reasons why, and at his fall from grace. Finally, we ask the question, is top-level men’s professional cycling cleaner now than it was when Armstrong raced?

  • Eric

    I’m sure all you sanctimonious commenters here are so certain, that all Brits and Euros are lilly-white squeaky-clean innocents who would never have even heard of EPO; unless Lance came along and showed it to them.

    I’ll respect some of your condescending words slightly more, if you would be just as incensed over the Continentals’ stonewalling on Operacion Puerto. Are you all really so besotted, as to believe similar concerted drugging programs were not also conducted by at least a half-dozen other top bicycle racing teams of the same era? And, BTW, I guess D.Millar’s “COOL”, since he was so “NICE” about his doping, at the time.

    But no – Lance fulfills your desire for a ready scapegoat, so as to better snuggle your collective anti-American heads more firmly down into the sand. You all sound much like the odious C.Prudhomme, who seriously suggested that the whole sport’s doping troubles are behind it, now that ol’ Lance there, got caught and pushed out in disgrace.

  • Eric

    Is there some legitimate reason you dragged race into your comment?

  • Richard Hill

    Cycling weekly has become the “daily mirror” & “daily express” of cycling journalism…..

  • Chris

    There has always been abuse of drugs. From the early days of the TDF, through the Tommy Simpson era to the current day, with plenty of proven cases. And how many proven cases of electric motors are you aware of in “top-level men’s professional cycling”? Might the answer still be “NONE?”

  • Chris

    The trouble with debating with the bigoted and the prejudiced, is that they drag you down to their level.

  • tjp

    LA is something of a fatal fascination, you know you really don’t want to go anywhere near anything to do with him but there is something drawing you in. Consequently I still have a mountain of books and dvds with his name on them. However, I will be resisting any urge I might get to purchase anything else concerning him.

  • Harri

    he killed peoples careers

  • Chris

    That’s your answer? I’ll ask my question again! And how many proven cases of electric motors are you aware of in “top-level men’s professional cycling”? Might the answer be “NONE?”

  • Chris Williams

    Unless they are caught then ????? With normal doping – unless they are caught ????????

  • Lance Power

    Love you Lance, you only cheated a little bit and made $500 million out of it. It is not like you killed anyone. I only have a few minutes before I go back to my minimum wage warehouse job but I love you Lance. We should promote your legacy of honour and winning as a good American. A real role model. I will teach my children as they go to some sink school “look at Lance Armstrong he did the right thing and now he lives in a mansion and has his own private jet, so work hard too and you can be like Lance Armstrong” – the honest white man.

  • Chris

    And how many proven cases of electric motors are you aware of in “top-level men’s professional cycling”?

  • Brendan Power

    How do you come to the conclusion that he was not a fraudster? The fact that there are others who fall into the same category doesn’t mean he was not a fraudster. Would you suggest that somebody who cons old ladies out of their money is not a fraudster simply because somebody else does the same thing? The principle is the same.

  • llos25

    Well said .

  • llos25

    It will probably sell very well indeed .

  • llos25

    No he is not he was like everybody else are they all fraudsters too or just the ones you think are clean.

  • richcyclo

    I’ve often thought the people producing ‘Cycling Weekly’ were plonkers (that’s being kind) and now i know I’m correct.

  • Chris Williams

    Finally, we ask the question, is top-level men’s professional cycling cleaner now than it was when Armstrong raced?
    In a word NO – Now you have electric doping also!!!

  • Robin Mainwaring

    I hope your print run was not too large, you could end up with a few spare copies!

  • Brendan Power

    Yes, he was part of cycling’s history. Yes, he helped to shape it. But, he is not a legend – he is an infamous fraudster.

  • J1

    Wow, you really do have a love for him.

  • Chris

    “Cycling Legends: Lance Armstrong – Order now”

    In a word “NO!”