Armstrong Can't Dodge His Tainted Legacy

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong signs autographs after a run with fans at Mount Royal park in Montreal on Aug. 29. (Reuters / September 5, 2012)

Lance Armstrong's decision not to fight long-standing allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs to spike seven Tour De France cycling championships came within days of Roger Clemens' decision to lace up his spikes again. (The 50-year-old pitcher actually delivered a better-than-decent outing against a Bridgeport minor league team.)

These were two tainted superstars taking disparate actions to preserve their reputations after being accused of using illegal steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.

Armstrong's decision to not defend himself against the United States Anti-Doping Agency, saying he was tired of the fight and legal costs, prevented the agency from unveiling its compelling case to the public. Armstrong, the agency alleged, played a critical role in a Postal Service-sponsored cycling team's efforts to use sophisticated doping remedies to enhance riders' performance.

Armstrong's long-standing claims that he never tested positive for steroids would ring hollow if it was found he was using designer performance enhancers that could circumvent conventional testing methods.

Those performances generated $40 million in sponsorship money for Armstrong's team. So, there was plenty of incentive to win at all cost.

A few months ago, Armstrong caught a break when the U.S. government dropped its criminal investigation of him, regarding allegations of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering and drug trafficking. But this month a federal judge dismissed Armstrong's lawsuit against the U.S. Doping Agency; he alleged that the USDA lacked jurisdiction and had an unconstitutional arbitration process.

Meanwhile, Clemens' motivation to pitch again could be seen as two-pronged. By delivering an encouraging cameo performance after a five-year layoff; Clemens could reaffirm his contention that his longevity and dominance in baseball was always about talent, not testosterone.

Also, if Clemens were to get an opportunity to pitch for a major league team, it would set back his Hall of Fame consideration by five years. That might be enough time for memories to fade and context be extended to him and the scores of major leaguers suspected of juicing during the 1990s and 2000s.

Clemens was found not guilty in June on six counts of perjury to Congress in 2008, in connection to statements he made about never taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens beat the rap. Armstrong would not be so lucky.

That the USADA finally nailed Armstrong was no surprise. Over the last several years, it was widely acknowledged that doping was an integral part of the international cycling game. It is amusing to watch people in complete denial that Armstrong's performances could have been tainted.

Up to 10 former Armstrong teammates were set to testify against him. That they might all have ulterior motives is a little difficult to believe. The witnesses were expected to testify that Armstrong had used testosterone and human growth hormone, among other substances, from before 1998 to 2005.

Bjarne Riis won the Tour de France in 1996. Eleven years later, an asterisk was put next to his name after he admitted to doping.

When Floyd Landis, a teammate of Armstrong's on the U.S. Postal Service racing team, was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title because his drug test came up dirty; things began to unravel for Armstrong.

Yet, the 40-year-old father of five has maintained extraordinary support across the country. He is a remarkable man, who overcame a debilitating cancer and through his foundation has raised almost $500 million for cancer research. It's hard not to root for a guy like this. Armstrong has built up a lot of good will with people whom he has never met, but have been inspired by his life story. Some simply refuse to believe that he could have been juicing to give himself the extra edge.

Armstrong's fall from grace comes eight years after his last Tour de France victory. His legions of fans see no relevance to punishing an icon almost a decade after he retired from his sport.

But the doping issue Is indeed relevant because if the world's most renowned cyclist was a cheater, then that should be duly noted in the record books.

Lance Armstrong's legacy should reflect his good deeds, while acknowledging his suspected bad judgments.

Stan Simpson is host of "The Stan Simpson Show'' (www.ctnow.com/stan and Saturdays, 6:30 a.m., on FOX CT).

PHOTO GALLERIES