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.
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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."
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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"