He dominated the sport of cycling like no one ever has. Along the way, his defeat of cancer made him an icon of optimism and persistence.
And now Lance Armstrong stands accused by teammates of being a lying, cheating snake who not only took performance-enhancing substances, but was the chief architect of breaking every rule of fair play on the Postal Service team he led.
These teammates were once Armstrong’s trusted allies on a highly successful team. Since Armstrong was the squad’s star, they cleared his path and protected him from other riders. They were his wing men and buffers.
No more. The names of former colleagues who tell of a decade of deception are piling up: First, five years ago, came Frankie Andreu, then Floyd Landis. Those two men were sharply attacked by Armstrong’s camp.
Now, Tyler Hamilton — a rider instrumental to Armstrong’s tour victories in 1999, 2000 and 2001 — has given the most specific account of all to “60 Minutes.” And George Hincapie, also close to Armstrong, is reportedly corroborating the central allegations to a federal grand jury.
Armstrong flatly denies every charge, questioning the motives and character of the accusers and citing various inconsistencies in their accounts.
Yes, Hamilton’s revelations could be motivated by other factors. Before opening up to “60 Minutes,” he was being threatened with federal prosecution were he to lie to a grand jury. And he is writing a book. Publicity cannot hurt sales.
Before going public, Hamilton surrendered the 2004 Olympics gold medal he won while doping. Given that at least three admitted cheaters were key to many of his tour victories, how can Armstrong cling to his trophies now — even if, as he says, he, personally, was absolutely clean?
The Daily News, New York (May 26)