The impact of Lance Armstrong’s admission of doping is only just now beginning to ripple across central Texas. He lives here, in the northwest part of the city, and is as much a part of the landscape now as the cattle and cactus are. On any given weekend and most weekdays, if you drive around Austin, you will see cyclists, lots of them, more cyclists than probably any other city in America. That’s because Lance Armstrong made cycling cool and he made Austin the center of the American cycling universe. For years he was the one celebrity who could eclipse any politician or musician in this state capital and live-music mecca. Seven championships in a sport most Americans had never heard of and would never have cared about at all if not for Lance Armstrong, the man who overcame cancer to rule the cycling world.
And then there’s the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, which runs down Cesar Chavez St down by the river on the city’s southern downtown side.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell has consistently said that he has no plans to rename it, and after Armstrong’s interview aired on Oprah Winfrey’s network last night, he issued a statement reiterating that position.
“Lance is not only a friend to me, but also a friend to Austin, and a friend and hero to millions of cancer survivors and their families around the globe. As for the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, it is a symbol in the fight against cancer. It’s a path toward healing and reminds us, as Lance Armstrong does, that cancer is a struggle we can overcome. I’ve heard no call from the Austin community to rename it and have no plans to do so.”
It’s a path that commemorates a cheater, and a particularly devious and evil cheater. All seven of his Mellow Johnnys are tainted and have been stripped. Armstrong built the sport of cycling in central Texas and across America with his story of overcoming all odds to become a champion. He has now destroyed that sport and its reputation for a generation. Armstrong destroyed the reputation of anyone who dared to expose him, with smears and lawsuits. The very cancer that Mayor Leffingwell cites in his statement is probably Armstrong’s own fault, a side effect of his doping.