It's official: Lance Armstrong is retiring from professional cycling, ending a comeback attempt that began in 2008, three years after he initially quit the sport. Armstrong, a testicular cancer survivor, became an international hero by overcoming his health problems to win a record seven consecutive Tour De France titles from 1999 to 2005. Through it all, Armstrong was dogged by accusations that he relied on performance-enhancing drugs. A glut of circumstantial evidence has surfaced linking Armstrong to banned substances, and he is now the subject of a federal grand jury investigation. What is his lasting legacy? (Watch a report about Armstrong's retirement)
He is a hero and a villain: "There is no easy summation" of Armstrong's career, says Philip Hersh at the Chicago Tribune. He was "one part champion and hero" and "one part seemingly a false idol, stooping to the ethical common denominator" of scandal-plagued cycling. His rivals have described him as egotistical and unfriendly, but he was also "unfailingly empathetic to the cancer survivors" who found new hope in him.
"Summing up Lance (again): the parts make a discomfiting whole"
He resurrected cycling: There may be "ample evidence to question the purity of Armstrong's seven consecutive Tour victories," says Craig Davis at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, but nobody was more fun to follow. Even during last year's mediocre Tour de France, Armstrong "remained a riveting figure" who inspired a "train-wreck fascination." Without him, cycling "will never be as watched or watchable."
"Armstrong retires but final chapter is yet to be written on cycling great"
The alleged cheating is not everything: "Let's face it," says Andrew Sharp at SB Nation. "Lance probably took performance-enhancing drugs." But whatever he was ingesting, it's "reasonable to guess that his competition was taking the same." And let's not forget, "even if he cheated, he's still a cancer survivor who conquered the world after the world had written him off."
"Lance Armstrong says goodbye to cycling, and we all wonder how to feel"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How a degree from Duke University dashed my dreams of buying a home
- This is why you can't trust the NSA. Ever.
- Innocent before proven guilty? The bizarre bipartisan rush to clear Rick Perry
- Half the world's population lives in these 6 countries
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- The single best way to help your kid succeed at school
- Today in history: Lincoln reveals the real goal of the Civil War
- ISIS and the echoes of the West's religious terror
- What Keeping Up with the Kardashians can teach America about interracial marriage
- Inside America's crumbling infrastructure
Subscribe to the Week