Longer than most people, I held out hope that Barry Bonds was clean. Sure, he was bulked up, but that could just mean a lot of weight training. And it wasn't like he was some mook who suddenly started hitting homers—the guy was already headed for the Hall of Fame. And that swing? You don't get a piece of perfect physical poetry like that from steroids. Of course, eventually, it became impossible to deny. Which brings us to the story of Lance Armstrong. Yesterday Armstrong gave up his fight against doping charges, and the US Anti-Doping Agency announced it would strip him of his seven Tour de France titles and ban him from the sport for life. While Armstrong never failed a drug test, multiple people, including former teammates, were prepared to testify that they either saw Armstrong doping or had other direct evidence that he was.
Lance Armstrong isn't just an athlete, he's a brand, an inspiration industry unto himself. Leaving aside what you might think of him as a person (an interesting topic in itself), how should we now think about his athletic accomplishments? Winning the Tour seven times was one of the greatest athletic feats in history. After his recovery from testicular cancer, Armstrong was said to be possessed of a super-human will that drove him to train harder than anyone else and call upon reserves of mental strength no one could match. Does that all disappear if he was cheating?