Column: Con job comes to an end for Armstrong
FILE - In this July 25, 2010, file photo, cyclist Lance Armstrong stands on the podium after the 20th and last stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Paris, France. Even after whistleblowers unveiled their scathing report portraying Armstrong as an unrepentant drug cheat, the argument over what to make of his life story rages on. (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski, File)
The end came quietly, with a pair of early morning statements that said more about the guilt of Lance Armstrong than a thousand pages of evidence.
Dumped by Nike. Out as chairman of his Livestrong foundation.
And finally done scamming everyone with one of the greatest con jobs of the century.
"Everybody wants to know what I'm on," Armstrong says in a 2001 Nike commercial. "What am I on?"
EPO maybe? Steroids? Blood transfusions? Testosterone?
It's all spelled out in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that finally took Armstrong down, exposing him as a doper extraordinaire and the biggest fraud you'll find on two wheels. Someone finally stood up to the bully and called his bluff, and now the dominos are falling fast.
So fast that before the day was done, Armstrong had been abandoned by another major sponsor. Anheuser-Busch said it wouldn't re-sign Armstrong, though both the beer company and Nike said they would continue to support his foundation. Other smaller sponsors followed.
That it took this long is a testament to how elaborate Armstrong's doping schemes were and how adamant his denials were framed. That it finally happened is thanks to the tenacity of Travis Tygart and others at the doping agency who wouldn't quit even when federal prosecutors had given up their pursuit of Armstrong.
The seven Tour de France titles will be the next to go, because even the inept people who run international cycling must now realize it is the only way to restore even a sliver of legitimacy to the drug-addled sport. Nobody still believes Armstrong won riding clean, as if anyone believes anything about cycling anymore.
FILE - In this Aug. 22, 2010, file photo, cyclist Lance Armstrong greets fellow riders prior to the start of his Livestrong Challenge 10K ride for cancer in Blue Bell, Pa. Armstrong said Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, he is stepping down as chairman of his Livestrong cancer-fighting charity so the group can focus on its mission instead of its founder's problems. The move came a week after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive report detailing allegations of widespread doping by Armstrong and his teams when he won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower, File)
For years, Nike served as an enabler for Armstrong, promoting him as one of the greatest athletes ever, alongside the likes of Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods. They paid him millions to ride with the swoosh, and aired commercials showing him doing supernatural things on his bike.
All the while they conveniently ignored one nagging question: How could someone who was clean win seven Tour de France races against competitors who were mostly all doping?
The answer, of course, was that Armstrong wasn't clean. Neither were the teammates who helped him win those races, some of whom would later say they had to dope because Armstrong would kick them off the team if they didn't.