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Lance Armstrong’s journey from cancer survivor to Tour de France champion to inspirational American icon was the stuff of legend and fairy tales. In the end, that’s exactly what it turned out to be – a fairy tale. After years and years of denials, and the stripping of his titles last year after the USADA published 1,000 pages of evidence that he doped, Armstrong has reportedly confessed to his sins in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that will be televised on Thursday evening USA time.
In the light of that confession, Firstpost has put together a timeline of Armstrong’s drug-fueled rise and fall:
1993: Armstrong first serves notice of his talent by winning the 1993 World Road Championship in Oslo and the USPRO championship. Having just entered his 20s, he also wins his first stage in the Tour de France.
1996: Armstrong starts the year as the top ranked cyclist in the world. He would end it having treatment for testicular cancer that had already spread to his abdomen and lungs. At the time, his doctors did not give him much of a chance of surviving, let alone return to cycling. Brain surgery to remove two lesions followed as well and he would undergo a year of chemotherapy.
1997: Having made an astonishing recovery from cancer, Armstrong founds the Lance Armstrong Foundation to support cancer research and cancer survivors, and begins to train as a cyclist again.
1999: Two years after he beats cancer, Armstrong beats the field to win his first Tour de France. The fairy tale begins.
2000: Armstrong publishes It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, detailing his triumph over cancer. The book becomes a worldwide bestseller. He also wins his second straight Tour de France.
2001: He wins the Tour de France for a third straight year. It is also the year Nike releases an ad in which Armstrong says: “This is my body and I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it, and study it, tweak it, listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?”
2003: A record tying fifth Tour de France in a row. Armstrong matches a feat achieved by only four other cyclists and only one, Miguel Indurain, had won five in a row. His second book, Every Second Counts, is published
2004: The first public accusation of doping. French sports journalist Pierre Ballester and The Sunday Times sports correspondent David Walsh release a book called L.A. Confidential, in which they accuse Armstrong of taking performance enhancing drugs.
Unperturbed by the allegations, Armstrong just keeps winning. His sixth straight Tour de France makes his the most successful cyclist ever in the event.
2005: Mike Anderson, Armstrong’s former personal assistant, alleges he found a box of Androstenone while cleaning Armstrong’s bathroom. The two eventually settle out of court.
Armstrong wins his seventh straight Tour de France and announces his retirement from cycling. After his victory, Armstrong had some stern words for his skeptics:
I’ll say to the people who don’t believe in cycling, the cynics and the skeptics. I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry that you can’t dream big. I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles. But this is one hell of a race. This is a great sporting event and you should stand around and believe it. You should believe in these athletes, and you should believe in these people. I’ll be a fan of the Tour de France for as long as I live. And there are no secrets — this is a hard sporting event and hard work wins it. Vive Le Tour.
The same year L’Équipe reports Armstrong used EPO, a performance enhancer, as far back as 1999. Armstrong responds on on CNN’s Larry King Live by insisting, “I have never doped, I can say it again, but I have said it for seven years — it doesn’t help.”
2006: Armstrong is cleared of the doping allegations raised by L’Equipe, and stemming from a drug test taken in 1999.
However, Le Monde raises new allegations by reporting claims made by Frankie Andreu, a former teammate, that Armstrong admitted to taking the blood-boosting hormone EPO in 1996.
Armstrong defends himself on ESPN’s Outside the Lines. Watch the video here.
2007: Asked by fellow cancer survivor and CBS journalist Bob Schieffer about taking PEDs, Armstrong says: “I was on my death bed. You think I’m going to come back into a sport and say, ‘OK, OK doctor give me everything you got, I just want to go fast?’ No way. I would never do that.”
2008: Armstrong says he is coming out of retirement and wants to race in the 2009 Tour de France.
2009: France’s anti-doping agency claims Armstrong didn’t co-operate during a drug tester, but later withdraws the allegations.
Armstrong responds in another Nike ad: “The critics say I’m arrogant. A doper. Washed up. A fraud. That I couldn’t let it go. They can say whatever they want. I’m not back on my bike for them.”
He goes on to finish third in the Tour.
2010: Floyd Landis, one of Armstrong’s former teammates, confesses to doping and claims his teammates, including Armstrong, were guilty too. US Federal authorities investigate Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service racing team for fraud and conspiracy.
Armstrong’s response is to attack Landis’ credibility: “It’s our word against his word. I like our word. We like our credibility. Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago.”
2011: Armstrong retires a second time amidst a federal grand jury inquiry into whether or not he led a doping ring when he raced for the US Postal Service.
In Sports Illustrated, another former teammate of Armstrong’s, Stephen Swart, says that Armstrong “was the instigator” when it came to taking PEDs. Yet another former teammate, Tyler Hamilton, tells 60 Minuteshe saw Armstrong inject EPO.
2012: The US government closes its investigation into Armstrong without levying any charges. Armstrong hails this as a victory bur in June the United States Anti-Doping Agency formally charges Armstrong with doping and drug-trafficking.
In a statement, Armstrong continues to deny the allegations: “I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one.”
However, Armstrong would eventually give up his fight. “There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999.”
In October, USADA releases over 1,000 pages of evidence against Armstrong. On the basis of that evidence, the International Cycling Union strips Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and hands him a lifetime ban.
2013: Armstrong reportedly confesses to Oprah that he did take PEDs.
With inputs from agencies