Once a symbol of perseverance in the face of the most incredible odds, Lance Armstrong now seems destined to go down in history as one of the most brazen dope cheats that sport has ever seen.
After sensationally conceding defeat in his fight to contest the charges against him in August, the Texan's world caved in a little bit further yesterday when the US Anti-Doping Agency published a damning report that laid bare his guilt.
Armstrong, they claim, was at the heart of “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen.”
“He was not just a part of the doping culture on his team,” said the USADA. “He enforced and re-enforced it.”
The relevations and inevitable repercussions look set to leave Armstrong’s legacy in tatters but for all his detractors, there have been just as many admirers.
For his supporters, the doping allegations pale into comparison beside his battle with life-threatening cancer and the work of his charitable foundation, which he founded to help others living with the disease.
Doctors had given Armstrong a less than 50 percent chance of survival when he was diagnosed in 1996 with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. He persevered through surgery and chemotherapy and returned to cycling but was little known in his homeland when he won his first Tour de France title in 1999.
Years of dominance
His years of dominance in the sport’s greatest race raised cycling’s profile in the United States to new heights and gave him a platform to promote cancer awareness and research.
The Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised almost $500 million (340 million euros, 310 million pounds) since it was created in 1997 and the foundation's chairman, Jeff Garvey, expressed support for Armstrong after the USADA vowed it would see him stripped of all seven of his Tour titles and banned from cycling.
“The leadership of the Lance Armstrong Foundation remain incredibly proud of our founder’s achievements, both on and off the bike,” said Garvey. Even in the glory days, however, many were sceptical.
In 1999, it was a trace amount of a banned corticosteroid, which cycling officials explained by saying he was authorised to use a small amount of cream containing the drug to treat saddle sores.
After his 2000 Tour triumph, French authorities probed his US Postal Service team but brought no charges.
Critics seized on his friendship with Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, who was banned by Italian authorities over doping in 2002.
In 2004, a Texas promotions company balked at paying him a $5 million bonus for his sixth tour title because of doping allegations by European media.
2011 May:- Forced to deny claims made by former team-mate Tyler Hamilton that they took performance enhancing drugs together.
2012 February: An investigation into alleged doping by Armstrong is dropped by federal prosecutors in California.
June: United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) confirm they will file formal doping charges against Armstrong.
July: Armstrong files lawsuit against USADA accusing them of "corrupt inducements" to other cyclists to testify against him.
August 20: Armstrong's legal action dismissed in court.
August 24: Armstrong announces he will not fight doping charges filed against him but insists he is innocent. He is stripped of all his titles and banned from cycling for life by USADA.
October 10: USADA claim 11 of Armstrong's former team-mates have testified against him.