Sports Scene:Armstrong defends honor, prepares to ride again

By Nick Pitts
September 18, 2008

Unretirement, seemingly the biggest thing to hit the sports world since the invention of the instant replay, has hit an all-time high on Sept. 9, when one of its greatest champions returned from a three-year hiatus.

Lance Armstrong announced that he would mount his bike once again and participate in the Tour de France 2009.

We all knew Brett Farve wasn’t going to last very long without gun-slinging footballs down the gridiron, but Lance Armstrong, making a comeback?

Why on earth would Armstrong, a seven-time Tour champion and testicular- cancer survivor want to put his reputation on the line after three long years of sweet legendary retiree status?

On his official Web site, Armstrong launched a video on the day of his announcement, claiming he was coming back in order to raise awareness of cancer worldwide.

In other words, Armstrong is a little angry that to this day skeptics still doubt that he was a clean rider during his amazing seven-year run.

Allegations dating back to his earliest win in 1999 have even left Tour Director Christian Prudhomme with mixed feelings regarding the return of one of the most popular riders of all time.

Prudhomme fears that the American’s return to the sport will be something of a counterproductive move, as cycling has greatly cleaned up its act.

Unfortunately, Armstrong’s era of cycling is considered the cheating era. Race officials have made giant strides on their new anti-doping policies, which include blood tests just days before legs of the race start.

After his 1999 victory, cyclists who placed second through 10th were all eventually caught with several different allegations, many of which were positive drug tests.

To a skeptical French media, it appeared as though Armstrong had escaped positive drug testing only because he may have used some sort of new drug in order to fly under the testing radar, or had paid off the right people.

Hogwash. Whether or not the man doped in the past is irrelevant at this point. If in fact he did use performance-enhancing drugs of any kind in the past, it doesn’t seem possible at all this time around, as race officials are going to be watching him very closely throughout the entire Tour.

Armstrong recently agreed that he would post his blood test results online to prove that he is in fact a clean athlete.

Ultimately, Armstrong is laying his entire reputation on the line, when he could have walked away three years ago, guilty or not of doping.

Overcoming severe forms of cancer to go on and win perhaps the hardest title in sports, seven straight times, is worthy of having your name written somewhere in the stars.

Returning three years later, complying with the Tour’s brutal performance-enhancing drug policies speaks volumes of his character.

Winning an eigth title then, may just earn him an emblem on his chest, a cape and a bright yellow Lancemobile.

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Nick Pitts

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