Last Wednesday, Trek Bycicle Corporation became yet another company to break ties with legendary cycler Lance Armstrong over allegations of performance-enhancing drug use.
Trek joins a growing list of businesses – which includes the likes of Nike, Giro and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV – that have decided to drop Armstrong as an endorser after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stripped the athlete of his seven Tour de France titles. The USADA claimed they were won “from start to finish by doping” and that he operated the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
The mass exodus of Armstrong sponsors is the most recent act in a drama that has as its central plot the unraveling of the reputation of the greatest cycler in the history of the tour. As this drama continues to unfold, it is becoming clear Armstrong is a victim who has been targeted by an altogether inept regulatory agency that will stop at nothing to tarnish his career.
After more than a decade of frequent and comprehensive drug testing, the USADA is still unable to provide conclusive evidence Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs. Nevertheless, it has engaged in a concerted effort to re-frame an inspiring career that had become a symbol of perseverance in the face of adversity as the results of cheating. Considering the fact it was unable to prove his guilt when he was a dominant cycler, and the fact that is is now relying on what amounts to a massive body of anecdotal and circumstantial evidence and hearsay, the USADA’s statements are belated, malicious and, quite frankly, slanderous.
At this point, I don’t care if Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs. It is generally accepted doping is endemic in cycling, so he wouldn’t have had an unfair advantage – drug user or not, he won those titles fair and square. Moreover, his efforts to raise money for cancer research with the Livestrong foundation are an example of the positive impact an athlete can make outside of sports. Armstrong’s athletic career transcends the sport of cycling – regardless of whether he used erythropoietin.
It’s unfortunate so many companies that once supported Armstrong have cut and run due to the USADA’s allegations, because that’s all they are – allegations. In breaking ties with Armstrong, Trek has shown that in the face of slanderous accusations of drug use, corporate sponsors have forgotten more than a decade’s worth of hard work, perseverance and philanthropy.
Charles Godfrey (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a junior majoring in physics and math.