It was always too good to be true.
From the life-threatening cancer that had invaded his abdomen, lungs and brain in 1997 to champion of one of the most grueling endurance tests in all of sport some two and one-half years later, Lance Armstrong seemed to defy all the odds in dominating the world of cycling. He would win an unprecedented seven consecutive Tour de Frances and become one of the most famous athletes on planet Earth.
Now he is being portrayed as one of the greatest cheats and frauds in sports history, banned from competition for life by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and the International Cycling Union - the sport's biggest superstar "has no place in cycling," the latter's president said - his titles stripped for allegedly using banned, performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong denies it all - so did baseball's Barry Bonds - but he has stopped fighting the charges and stepped away from his own charity. His primary sponsor, Nike, unceremoniously dropped him. The Tour de France is trying to retrieve the $4 million in prize money it awarded him. There's talk of criminal perjury charges. To say Armstrong's reputation is in free-fall would be the understatement of the decade.
One by one, his old teammates have turned against him, portraying someone who aggressively used and covered it up, who encouraged others to do so, who ostracized and intimidated those who threatened to tell. It's not a picture of a very good human being, if you believe those who outed him.
Americans so want to believe in their heroes. If all of this is true, well, consider it an uncommon betrayal. And a sport trying to clean itself up is at long last going about it the right way, by wiping the record books clean so that for future generations, it will be as if these cheaters never existed.
Journal Star of Peoria, Ill.