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The Lance Armstrong Doping Controversy refers to the public scandal surrounding the professional cyclist’s alleged and self-admitted use of performance-enhancing substances which began in 2012 after the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s ruling to strip his career titles and ban him from the sport for lifetime.
The allegations date back to 2004, when sports journalist Pierre Ballester and The Sunday Times sports correspondent David Walsh published a French book titled L.A. Confidentiel, containing circumstantial evidence that Lance Armstrong had been using performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career. Over the years, he has also been accused by a former employee and several other teammates, with breaking coverage provided by French sports newspaper L’Equipe and American news program 60 Minutes. In 2012, United States Anti-Doping Agency stripped Armstrong of all of the titles he won from August 1st, 1998 through 2012 and banned him from competition for life, yielding much online reaction.
August 2012: Titles Stripped
In August 2012, after a lengthy investigation into a doping conspiracy involving the United States Postal Service professional cycling team, the United States Anti-Doping Agency ruled to strip Armstrong of his Tour De France titles and ban him from competing in, coaching or holding any position for any sport that follows the World Anti-Doping Code for the rest of his life. Despite Armstrong’s denial that he ever was involved in drug use, he chose not to fight the charges. On October 10th, after the full 202-page report was released, several cycling Twitter users and bloggers began parsing through the information, sharing highlights (shown below) via social networks.USA Today engaged Twitter and Facebook users in a discussion on whether or not stripping Armstrong’s titles was fair, yieiding dozens of comments from both sites.
OH but wait!!!
<a href="https://twitter.com/johanbruyneel">johanbruyneel</a> gets in on the act. He has Lance's money! How does Michele want it? Oh my <a href="http://t.co/0Cr4w1Zg" title="http://twitter.com/UCI_Overlord/status/256133328225308672/photo/1">twitter.com/UCI_Overlord/s…</a></p>— Not Pat McQuaid(UCI_Overlord) October 10, 2012
On October 21st, Armstrong gave a speech to participants at the Livestrong annual Ride for the Roses, noting that it had been a tumultuous time for him. That day, he was mentioned on Twitter 119,313 times. The next day, Uproxx curated a series of image macros and fan art made in the wake of the scandal. Most of these were originally shared on Tumblr on the Lance Armstrong tag. Buzzfeed also shared a series of humorous tweets in response to the scandal.
November 2012: Jersey Photograph
On November 10th, 2012, Armstrong tweeted a photo of himself laying on a large couch in a room with seven yellow Tour De France jerseys from his wins between 1999 and 2005 hanging on the walls with the caption “Back in Austin and just layin’ around…”Within three days, it was retweeted more than 10,600 times, favorited more than 3700 times and the image was viewed more than 522,000 times on its host, Mobli.
The tweet and accompanying image was featured on several news sites including USA Today and the International Business Times, Mashable, the Huffington Post and Forbes. The New York Daily News noted that Twitter response was split, with people both supporting and disparaging Armstrong for the photo. On the 10th and 11th, there were nearly 34,000 mentions of Lance Armstrong on Twitter, although this is combined with mentions due to him resigning from his position with cancer research charity Livestrong. Additionally, some Twitter users began photoshopping the image, replacing the framed jerseys with images of drag paraphernalia, as featured on the Daily Mail.
Back in Austin and just layin’ around… mob.li/_r4zAz— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) November 10, 2012
January 2013: Oprah Interview
In January 2012, Lance Armstrong appeared in a two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey to talk about his recent doping controversy and the subsequent fall from grace. During the the first half of the interview, which aired on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN channel on January 17th, the athlete confessed using performance-enhancing substances such as hormone EPO and testosterone to help him win his seven Tour de France titles.
Oprah Winfrey: For 13 years you didn’t just deny it, you brazenly and defiantly denied everything you just admitted just now. So why now admit it?
Lance Armstrong: “That is the best question. It’s the most logical question. I don’t know that I have a great answer. I will start my answer by saying that this is too late. It’s too late for probably most people, and that’s my fault. I viewed this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times, and as you said, it wasn’t as if I just said no and I moved off it.”
Oprah Winfrey: You were defiant, you called other people liars.
Lance Armstrong: “I understand that. And while I lived through this process, especially the last two years, one year, six months, two, three months, I know the truth. The truth isn’t what was out there. The truth isn’t what I said, and now it’s gone – this story was so perfect for so long. And I mean that, as I try to take myself out of the situation and I look at it. You overcome the disease, you win the Tour de France seven times. You have a happy marriage, you have children. I mean, it’s just this mythic perfect story, and it wasn’t true.”
Winfrey’s exclusive interview with Armstrong drew much attention from the news media, with the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post providing real-time coverage and other cable news programs like CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 devoting much of its airtime to discuss people’s reaction to the interview as it happened. Meanwhile on Twitter, viewers reacted to Armstrong’s confession with reservation and even skepticism while others praised Winfrey’s artful interviewing skills. Shortly after the broadcast of Armstrong’s confession, Livestrong Foundation released a statement expressing disappoint in their former leader and the founder.
Related Meme: Livestrong Bracelets
Armstrong’s cancer research foundation Livestrong launched a line of yellow silicone bracelets in May 2004 as a fundraising technique for the charity. That year, it become a popular fashion statement, with various celebrities, politicians and athletes photographed wearing it. By September, the company had sold 12 million bracelets. The success of the Livestrong bracelet led to other causes creating their own support wristbands. Following Armstrong’s title loss, several news sites including Gawker, CNN, the Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times published articles on what to do with a Livestrong bracelet now that the cyclist had lost his merit. Gizmodo hosted a photoshop contest for people to share images depicting the destruction of the wristbands. Additionally, The Onion webstore began carrying a parody bracelet with the words “Cheat to Win” (shown below, right).
International Business Times – Lance Armstrong Posts Shameless Twitter Photo In Front Of His Seven Tour de France Jerseys (Autoplay)
Daily Mail – Has he no shame? Defiant Lance Armstrong defies critics by posting provocative picture of himself surrounded by yellow jerseys he won by cheating… and image is already mocked in new set of hilarious memes
USADA – Lance Armstrong Receives Lifetime Ban And Disqualification Of Competitive Results For Doping Violations Stemming From His Involvement In The United States Postal Service Pro-Cycling Team Doping Conspiracy
Sports Illustrated – Bracelet mania Armstrong’s yellow wrist bands have become cultural phenomenon