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.
Armstrong has now been stripped of his 2000 Olympic gold medal. Livestrong, his charity, has disassociated from him, and in turn has had its ties with the Sporting Kansas City soccer team severed. The fallout for Lance Armstrong is only beginning. The people he sued and some of the people and corporations who believed in him may now circle around him and pick him clean.
Hopefully Livestrong, the charity that he built but to which he now has no ties, can live on and continue to do the good work that it does. It’s the only part of Lance’s legacy that deserves to survive. Let the bike shop and the cafe stand too if they’re economically viable.
Armstrong says he cheated because he thought he had to in order to win. That cheating made him a champion, and then a friend to Mayor Leffingwell and George W. Bush and politicians and celebrities all over the world. He lied to them as much as he was lying to the cycling world. The only reason that the Lance Armstrong Bikeway exists is because Lance Armstrong cheated more efficiently and more ruthlessly than anyone else had ever cheated in cycling before. It’s now a scar in the heart of Austin. It needs to be removed.
Related at PJ Lifestyle: Remembering Austin When Lance Armstrong Was Still A Hero