Sports has its heroes, villains, winners, losers, and cheaters. It also has Lance Armstrong, who is all of those rolled into one. Thanks to him, sports have never been the same.
1. He’s Infamous
There are falls from grace, and then there’s Lance Armstrong. He overcame adversity—and even death—to become a hero who transcended cycling. Lance’s power, wealth, and stardom shielded him from the cheating allegations that circled him…until he couldn’t outrun them any longer. Lance has no one to blame for his ruin but himself—but he still dragged others down with him.
2. He Had A Rough Childhood
Pain has been a constant presence in Lance Armstrong’s life. When he was born in 1971, his 17-year-old mom was in an abusive relationship with his 18-year-old dad. Two years later, his father abandoned the family. When his mom remarried, it was to another abusive dud.
Since pain was all Lance knew, it’s no wonder he fell in love with brutal sports.
3. He’s Cocky
Lance was many things, but humble was never one of them. After spending his teenage years competing—and winning—in triathlons, 21-year-old Lance committed to professional cycling. His talent, wins, and attitude quickly drew attention from the cycling world.
When an interviewer asked if he was the next Greg LeMond, Lance replied “No I’m the first Lance Armstrong”—and boy did he prove it.
4. He Was A Rising Star
Lance Armstrong was on top of the world…but not for long. The 25-year-old had his dream career, dream salary and endorsements, dream home, and the world for his taking. Lance had it all, with even more to come. He’d signed a whopping 2-year, $2 million contract with his team.
But just two months later, his life spiraled out of control.
5. He Ignored The Red Flags
Lance might’ve been too familiar with pain. When Lance started suffering from blurred vision and pain, especially in his testicles, he ignored it. After all, cycling is a brutal sport where pain isn’t just normal, it’s welcome. He figured that his symptoms would eventually improve on their own. They only got worse.
When Lance found himself hunched over the sink with a river of blood flowing from his mouth, he realized this wasn’t going away on its own.
6. He Received Horrible News
Ignorance is bliss: Lance figured that his illness was something small. Nothing some antibiotics and sleep couldn’t cure. He’d be back to cycling in no time. Then, the emergency tests and grim-faced doctors came back. Lance sobbed and went into denial.
Testicular cancer came for this elite athlete, and it was even worse than it sounds.
7. He Was Gravely Sick
When it rains, it pours. Surgeons removed Armstrong’s testicle a day after diagnosis, but his ordeal was just beginning. They discovered not one, but twelve additional tumors in his lungs. The more his doctors looked, the more tumors they found.
From head to toe, cancer had invaded Lance’s body. And, to make matters worse, his doctor wasn’t completely honest.
8. He Was Lied To
The athlete traded cycling for chemotherapy, surgeries, and other brutal treatments. Cancer was a new, unwelcome pain. It was all for a bleak 20-50% chance of survival. But the truth was even worse. Turns out, his doctor exaggerated these odds to give Lance hope. The doctor confessed that he had “almost no hope,”
But Lance Armstrong couldn’t help beating the odds—and then some.
9. He Found Love
Love—and Lance—defies reason. Sparks flew when he met Kristin Richards at a press conference. She worked in public relations while Lance battled cancer. Just a year later, they married. They even had a son and twin daughters together, thanks to sperm that Lance banked pre-illness.
After beating cancer and winning Kristin’s heart, he could’ve lived a peaceful life. But of course, that’s just not Lance Armstrong.
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10. He’s Relentless
There’s crazy, and there’s Lance. He decided to return to cycling—one of the most grueling sports—during treatment. Professionally. Lance claimed that he returned, not just for himself, but for his fellow cancer patients and survivors. Even though Lance was still recovering, still vomiting for hours, and still frail, he persisted.
This led to incidents like passing out on a stranger’s front lawn after a light 20-minute ride. It seemed like the biggest fool’s errand—and this was just the beginning.
11. He Was Dumped
It gets even worse. Lance’s team dumped him after his diagnosis. He had nothing but a $200,000 offer from the US Postal Service Team. This was a 90% salary reduction, but it was his way back into cycling. However, it required grueling training and moving his family to Europe. Barely recovered and barely married, Lance went all in.
12. He Made A Legendary Comeback
No one could believe it: Lance returned to professional cycling barely a year after his surgeries. Over the eight-day Ruta Del Sol, Lance fiercely rode with brain surgery scars on his head and chemotherapy marks all over his body. He finished in 15th place. While his return wasn’t a slam-dunk victory, making it back was a superhuman feat in and of itself. And Lance was just getting started.
13. He Became A Legend
Lance Armstrong didn’t just make a comeback; he reached heights that he’d never reached before, and that no other cyclists had reached either. In 1999, he won his first Tour de France. He’d go on to win the sport’s most prestigious event seven times. Consecutively.
Most didn’t think Lance could actually come back to cycling at all. He responded by becoming one of the greats. But in true Lance fashion, he wanted more.
14. He Inspired Everyone
There are famous cyclists, and there’s Lance Armstrong. His inspirational story was a movie come to life. It’s no wonder everyone and their mother knew and revered him. And that’s before he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation—later the Livestrong Foundation—to support cancer patients and survivors.
With Livestrong, Armstrong has raised hundreds of millions by selling their iconic yellow bracelets. Lance was cycling’s—and America’s—golden boy, but all the while, dark rumors swirled around him.
15. He Faced Doping Accusations
Everyone knew Lance was good, but some thought he was too good. Lance made winning grueling races look easy. Suspiciously easy. Lance faced doping accusations throughout most of his career, with detractors insisting that his speed and recovery were not humanly possible without banned substances.
In response, Lance went nuclear.
16. He Had Enemies
Enter, Christophe Bassons: a rival and reportedly one of the few clean riders on the Pro Tour. During the 1999 Tour de France, “Mr Clean” wrote articles discussing past and present doping in the sport. During the race, Lance confronted Christophe. The American informed the Frenchman that speaking out was a mistake, and demanded to know why he did it.
Christophe said this was for the next generation of cyclists. With the peloton watching, Lance responded by telling Christophe that his claims were false and that he should leave the sport. Lance—and his gang—refused to leave Christophe alone. The race got even uglier.
17. He Ruined Careers
Christophe stayed true to his morals, but paid the price for it. The peloton started by giving him the silent treatment, then took it further. They secretly planned to slow down for 62 miles (100 kilometers). The group rode by Christophe just to stare him down, then Armstrong himself grabbed his shoulder and told him to quit the sport...except he used far less friendly words.
This intimidation continued until Christophe gave in and quit. Then, Lance’s power trip went on to claim even more victims.
18. He Loves Lawsuits / He’s Litigious
The mountain of allegations against Armstrong included a book, fellow cyclists, and former employees. This would’ve buried lesser athletes. But Lance knew what was at stake, so he didn’t just deny and discredit detractors. He went ballistic. For example, he sued The Sunday Times when they published some of the allegations. The paper not only had to compensate him, they also had to publicly apologize.
Like everything else in his life, Lance took on these detractors and won. Again and again. On and off tour, he couldn’t stop winning. The accusations barely made a dent in Lance’s pristine reputation. Most of the world still saw him as an all-time cycling great and an inspiration.
Lance had his…questionable and secretive PR strategies to thank.
19. He Was In Control
The US Postal Service Team was a tightly run ship, and Lance was its captain. You only saw what Lance wanted you to. They went as far as only giving access to supportive journalists and enlisting them to spy on others. They had no qualms about photographing and blacklisting difficult journalists.
And Lance’s influence was even stronger within the team.
20. He Used Peer Pressure
US Postal Service was supposed to be a cycling team, but it turned out to be The Lance Show. Diva doesn’t even begin to describe it: Lance was the star, while his teammates were disposable. Lance dumped them if they didn’t do everything or take everything he demanded.
They feared Lance so much that they protected him even after they got busted for cheating.
21. He Lost, Then Found Love Again
Lance doesn’t just move quickly on a bike. In 2003, Lance and Kristin called it quits. Kristin later confessed that she didn’t love his new celebrity lifestyle. But Lance embraced it fully. That same year, Lance started dating Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow. And boy did they let everyone know.
22. He Was In Love
Lance and Sheryl soon fell in love with each other—and with public displays of affection. Whether it was courtside at a basketball game or on a red carpet, they couldn’t keep their hands or lips off each other. Paparazzi couldn’t get enough of this power couple.
And by the time Lance realized this oversharing was a mistake, it was too late.
23. He Popped The Big Question
There are romantic proposals, and there’s what Lance did. Two years later, the couple went on a lake trip gone wrong. Their boat ran out of gas, and left them stranded in the middle of the lake. Lance figured, “You know, we're stuck here. I may as well ask her now,” so he got down on one knee.
He didn’t even have a ring. Sheryl still said yes—but this wasn’t her first rodeo.
24. He Had A Flighty Fiance
Some couldn’t help but side-eye Sheryl’s history. Turns out, she’s been engaged not once, but three times. They wondered if Sheryl and Lance would actually make it down the aisle. One bold interviewer even accused Sheryl of not truly wanting to marry anyone.
Turns out, the skeptics got it wrong. Well, they did when it came to Sheryl, at least...
25. His Fiance Was All In
As usual, the culprit turned out to be Lance. The couple realized the hard way that they weren’t on the same page. Sheryl wanted everything from marriage to babies. She already loved Lance’s kids as her own. The singer proved this by dedicating her music to them.
She was all in, but the feeling wasn’t mutual. It didn’t take long for her to notice.
26. He Couldn’t Commit
Turns out, the red flags were there all along. A few months after their engagement, Lance hosted Saturday Night Live. During his monologue, they made fun of his inability or unwillingness to pick a wedding date. Hilarious, right? There was more than a little truth in these “jokes”. It didn’t take long for the joke to wear off.
27. He Broke Things Off
It still came as a surprise when Lance and Sheryl called off their six-month engagement. They shared the stereotypical statement that "We both have a deep love and respect for each other, and we ask that everyone respect our privacy during this very difficult time” but people wondered what really happened.
Soon, a potential explanation arrived—and it was horrifying.
28. He Faced More Accusations
Just weeks after making their split public, more fuel got dumped on the fire. Sheryl Crow shared that she had breast cancer. It didn’t take long for the tabloids and rumor mill to go haywire. People speculated that Lance left her due to her illness.
Sheryl debunked these conspiracies, but the damage was done. The truth was even more heartbreaking.
29. He’s Incompatible
Lance and Sheryl’s publicness came back to bite them. Everyone wanted a comment, a reason for the broken engagement. Sheryl refused to be specific but insisted "We really loved each other a lot and still love each other a lot” and she couldn’t "be angry at Lance for being who he is”. Lance eventually shared his side.
30. He Told All
Lance admitted in his biography that Sheryl ”wanted marriage, she wanted children and not that I didn't want that, but I didn't want that at that time because I had just gotten out of a marriage, I'd just had kids. Yet, we're up against her biological clock — that pressure is what cracked it”.
But Lance wasn’t done making headlines.
31. He Called It Quits
After another successful season in 2005, Lance shocked the world by announcing his retirement. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family and on the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Not to mention, it’d hopefully silence the increasing doping allegations.
Well, it didn’t last long. Cycling’s call of glory, fame, and riches was irresistible.
32. He Found Love Again
In July 2008, Lance met Anna Hansen through his foundation work. By December 2008, Anna was pregnant. This shocked everyone, including the couple, because it was thought that Lance couldn’t even father children naturally due to this testicular cancer.
Lance beat the odds again, and the pair ended up with two children. Still Lance wasn’t content staying at home.
33. He Came Back
Three years later, Lance came out of retirement and into even more cheating allegations. Of course, he continued to deny everything and anything. Even without the rumors, though, his late-30s comeback was disappointing.
After a lackluster season, Lance decided his 2010 Tour de France would be last. He had no idea the storm was coming.
34. He Didn’t Know What Was Coming
Around the same time, former teammate and disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis sent the emails that changed everything. Floyd broke the sport and the team's code of silence and confessed to sports officials that he’d doped while competing.
He also accused his teammates, including Lance, of cheating—and the floodgates finally opened.
35. He Doubled Down
Floyd confessed "I want to clear my conscience. I don't want to be part of the problem anymore”, but the same couldn’t be said for Lance. The cycling legend continued to deny and discredit these allegations. He finished his last race and career in 23rd. The doping allegations, on the other hand, were just getting started.
36. He Had To Face Reality
A year after Lance's final race and retirement, it got even worse. More ex-teammates began confessing and cooperating with investigations. His ex-inner circle used to be ride or die. Now, they were like rats jumping off the sinking ship that he captained.
Lance’s denials seemed weaker by the day. Then, the final blow came.
37. He Was Screwed
The jig was up. For years, anyone reporting on the rumors had to use the “alleged” to cover themselves. Well, they could drop that word. In 2012, the United States Anti-Doping Agency published a 1,000 page report that confirmed Lance doped for most of his career.
Their evidence was undeniable and shocking. It wasn’t just that Lance doped, it was how he did it.
38. He Shocked Everyone
The report didn’t just expose Lance and his former teammates, it went after the entire sport. They revealed how rampant, organized, and systematic cheating was in cycling. Lance wasn’t hiding in a bathroom secretly injecting himself. This was a team effort with dozens and dozens of people in the know.
39. He Didn’t Deny It
Everyone waited eagerly for Lance’s next move. In response, Lance didn’t—or perhaps couldn’t—deny it. While many of his former teammates came clean, Lance couldn’t bring himself to. He didn’t admit to anything. Instead, Lance insisted that he accepted the charges and didn’t fight back to save his family from more drama. Sure, Lance.
40. He Lost A Fortune
Everything about Lance’s legendary career and inspiring story was marketing gold. All of Lance’s sponsors, including Nike, wanted a piece of him. But he became an untouchable liability after the report. The financial backlash led to Lance reportedly losing $75 million worth of sponsors in a day.
It was going to get a lot worse before it got better.
41. He Was In Hot Water
Lance’s sue-happy past came back to bite him. This time, he was on the other side of the courtroom. Remember everyone who received lawsuits for sharing these allegations turned facts? They understandably felt vindicated and vengeful. They turned the tables and sued him back.
Lance paid millions and millions in lawsuits and fines. But the world wasn’t done punishing sport’s biggest cheat.
42. He Lost Everything
Remember: When it rains, it pours. Lance resigned from his beloved foundation and renamed it the Livestrong Foundation. He was stripped of his cycling titles and wins. Every single one. The lifetime sports ban was the cherry on the top. Lance’s career and legacy weren’t just done, they were destroyed.
And the saddest part? It didn’t have to end this way.
43. He Destroyed Himself
This could’ve ended differently if Lance wasn’t so… Lance. If he’d never made his second comeback or been such a jerk to his former teammates, he very likely could’ve prevented—or at least mitigated—the scandal. His teammates would’ve followed the code of silence and protected him.
Turns out, all the traits that created Lance’s success, also destroyed it.
44. He Finally Came Clean
In 2013, Lance faced the music and sat down with Oprah. In this interview, Lance finally admitted to doping and bullying. He confessed that he got lost in the perfect story of his life "You won the disease ... it was this mythic perfect story. And it just wasn't true”.
Still, he could’ve used this opportunity to redeem himself or at least garner sympathy. Then, the real Lance came out.
45. He Put His Foot Into His Mouth
Lance dug his own grave by acting like an even bigger villain. Betsy Andreu is the wife of a former teammate and a detractor. After sharing that she’d overheard Lance confessing to doping, he went after her. Hard. She accused Lance of calling her fat.
In the interview with Oprah, while “apologizing,” Lance joked "Betsy, I may have called you some mean things, but I never called you fat”...Hilarious?
46. He Doesn’t Regret It
Now, everyone wanted to know if cheating was worth it. Lance thinks so and stated "We did what we had to do to win. It wasn't legal, but I wouldn't change a thing—whether it's losing a bunch of money, or going from hero to zero”. In fact, if Lance had a time machine, he’d "probably do it again".
If there’s one thing Lance is going to do, it’s make it worse for himself.
47 He Destroyed His Sport
This is the story of how Lance went from the hero to the villain within his lifetime. Lance didn’t just destroy his own legacy, he dragged other people and his beloved sport down with him. Lance wasn’t the first or last cheater in cycling—but he is by far the worst. Well, the worst who’s been caught so far.
48. He Has A Ride Or Die
But Lance’s story isn’t finished yet. In December 2014, Lance drank too much and made the brilliant decision to get behind the wheel. He crashed. In an even stupider move, he fled the scene. Then he did something unforgivable: He tried to let his partner take the fall.
The next day, his girlfriend Anna went to the station and claimed responsibility. She didn’t convince anyone. Anna finally confessed that she lied to protect her family from more negative attention. Well that didn’t work.
49. He Proposed
Was Lance always the fiance, but never the husband? In 2017, Lance and Anna were engaged. At this point, they went through years of parenting and weathering scandals together. But once again, time passed without a wedding. This time, it was five years.
Was this Sheryl Crow 2.0? Lance and Anna finally put the speculation to rest.
50. He Finally Walked Down The Aisle
Many would consider Lance the villain of the story, but he still got a fairytale ending. In 2022, Lance and Anna married at a French chateau. Lance shared that he’d “Married the love of my life”. He went on to write "Anna, you have been my absolute rock the past 14 years and let me be clear, I would not have survived them without you”.