Now that Lance Armstrong has declined to defend his case against the USADA in an arbitration hearing -- thereby admitting a certain level of guilt of either using performance enhancing drugs during his cycling career, helping to distribute them, or both -- everyone across the globe seems to have picked a side to either stand by their man or throw him to the lions.
The news outlets and social media sites are exploding with opinions ranging from an innocent victim of a witch hunt to a selfish, win-at-all-costs son of a bitch, and not a lot in between. Regardless of where you fall in this debate, there's no denying Armstrong has left an indelible impact on the world, cycling and beyond, over the past 18 years.
And here's why we'll always love/hate him ...
7. + He got more people on Bikes/- He got more people to wear spandex. The number of bikes sold in the US after 1999 skyrocketed simply because of Armstrong winning that first Tour de France. Cycling became cool, and that popularity quickly spilled over to the triathlon world, where Armstrong first got his start and, ironically enough, saw it end. From 2000 to 2010, if someone saw anyone turning over some pedals, they likely yelled out "Hey Lance!" just like in the newly released movie "Premium Rush."
6. + He won like Tiger and MJ/- He behaved like Tiger and MJ. Many can argue that if Armstrong actually doped or used other performance enhancing drugs, it was simply leveling the playing field because everybody was doin' it. Drugs or not, he owned the Tour de France from 1999 to 2006 and would ride away from the best climbers on the hardest of courses. From The Look to The Fall to The Crossing, the peloton was at Armstrong's mercy and he would strong-arm victory similar to Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. Of course, both of those guys were famous for being supreme jerks who surrounded themselves with yes-men entourages and divorces from their loyal first wives, too.
5. + He likes riding in Phoenix/- So much for that Ironman AZ. Armstrong brought several of his teams to the Valley, specifically north Phoenix and Scottsdale, for preseason training, including as recently as his farewell season in 2011. The team would famously set up shop at the Boulders Resort and train on the rolling roads around Cave Creek, Carefree, and Fountain Hills, riding routes out to Lake Pleasant, Nine Mile Hill or down to Bartlett Lake. Just last fall, Armstrong returned to Tempe to claim first place at the Urban Dirt Triathlon as part of his build up to completing an Ironman, which never happened nor now ever will.
4. + He raised the conversation about cancer/- He made us all wear rubber bracelets - at least once. Armstrong was a celebrity two and a half years before he ever won a Tour de France, when he announced he had testicular cancer and would remove himself from sport. This announcement became the greatest health-related setback to a pro athlete since Magic Johnson's HIV case five years prior. It also was the beginning of the Livestrong movement, Armstrong's foundation that raises awareness about cancer and cancer research. Never mind that the foundation hasn't actually generated any actual research or treatment, but it has any army of loyal subjects who have survived cancer or been close to one of the many cancer has claimed. Synonymous with this army are the bright gold bands imprinted with the foundation's name that everyone was clamoring to lay down a buck to be part of that in crowd. Virtually every non-profit and cause has created a wristband since.
3. + He supports and promotes art/- That Sheryl Crow thing. Upon his first departure from the pro peloton, Armstrong turned some of his obsessive energy to the world of Pop Art and quickly began using a chunk of his vast wealth on supporting the nation's hot artists. Some would say he was buying entre into the art world, but there's no denying he brought additional support and exposure to people like Shepard Fairey, Tom Sachs, Kenny Scharf, KAWS and Damien Hirst. And no good son of Austin, TX is worth their weight in salt in they don't love them some good alternative music. He's supposed to be Sheryl Crow's muse for her album "Wildflower."
2. + His bike shop is awesome/- Juan Pelota. Mellow Johnny's, his multi-story bike shop in downtown Austin, is considered one of the very best in all the land. Named after his pet term for the yellow jerseys he took home from Paris, the shop is complete with fitness training, bike fitting, bike education, and a Bike Cellar-like urban bike station for commuters. It also has an adjoining coffee shop named Juan Pelota, Armstrong's oh-so-cute alternative personality that constantly reminds us all that the dude's walking around with one ball.
1. + He's a comeback kid/- He's a comeback kid. He inspired the world for a good decade. And it's high time for everyone that he took a back seat.
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