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Armstrong’s RAGBRAI appearance more than welcome

BY MIKAEL MULUGETA | JULY 22, 2014 5:00 AM

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RAGBRAI is a bicycle-touring event that will take place Sunday through Saturday. The event will turn 42 years old this year and will welcome back polarizing cyclist Lance Armstrong.

This will be Armstrong’s sixth ride with RAGBRAI. This will be his second time participating in the event since he confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs to win a record seven-consecutive Tour de France championships. Armstrong’s participation in the ride has been met with some mixed feelings, but I strongly support his participation in the event.

Most know Armstrong’s story. He was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer in 1996. After surgeries and chemotherapy, Armstrong won his battle with cancer in 1997 and founded the Livestrong Foundation in that same year. Beginning in 1999, Armstrong went on to win the Tour de France every year through the 2005 competition. National interest, and pride, in Armstrong during this time was monumental, and his success propelled him to the status of a sports icon. Admired not only for his physical endurance, Armstrong was revered for his story of perseverance. Then came the doping allegations.

As with most dominant athletes experiencing record-breaking careers, Armstrong’s name was frequently associated with performance-enhancing drugs. This was of course due in part to the PED-ridden history of the Tour de France and competitive cycling as a sport. Before the 1940s, it was not only a standard practice but even expected that competitors in the race would use drugs to get an advantage. However, Armstrong competed in an era that prohibits it racers from using drugs … though that hadn’t stopped most of the race’s top competitors up to that point.

After Armstrong had been accused and suspected of doping for most of his pro career, in 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency found that Armstrong had in fact used PEDs, and he was subsequently banned from pro cycling for life and stripped of all seven of his titles. Armstrong confessed in a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had used performance-enhancing drugs throughout all of his competitions in the Tour de France.

There is no ignoring that blemish. Armstrong is a cheater. His name will never again be spoken in the same breath as Peyton Manning or Michael Jordan, men who embody the dedication necessary to become legendary. However, I can’t omit the fact that every single finalist in Armstrong’s stretch of dominance, save (maybe) for Fernando Escartin, has tested positive or confessed to using PEDs in the Tour de France. This widespread depravity illustrates the dishonest culture of the race.

This does not absolve Armstrong of his mistakes, but he has paid for his mistakes by losing most of the empire that was built on his many lies. He’s been stripped of his Tour de France titles, all previous sponsors have cut off ties with the Livestrong Foundation, which he stepped down from as chairman after the scandal broke, and he’s been banned for life from professional cycling.

Having been sufficiently humbled, it would be excessive to punish the man further by persecuting him as he seeks to reclaim his passion, in a limited respect anyways. As reported in a Des Moines Register article, RAGBRAI was the first major cycling event to extend an invitation to Armstrong after the scandal broke. His participation is an example of how sports and recreation can bring people together, rather than tear them apart.


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