The rise and fall of Lance Armstrong — What you need to know before watching ‘LANCE’

ESPN 30 for 30 "LANCE", directed by Marina Zenovich
Part 1: Sunday, May 24, 9:00 pm ET on ESPN.
Part 2: Sunday, May 31, 9:00 pm ET on ESPN.
Live broadcast: ESPN, ESPN + and ESPN Player app (when available)

After beating metastatic testicular cancer that had already spread to other parts of the body in 1996, all eyes were on Lance Armstrong when he returned to cycling the following year. But it was in 1999, when he won his first Tour de France – the most prestigious and difficult race in cycling – that his status was really high and he became one of the most revered athletes of the time.

Armstrong has become a household name. He became a cause, a movement.

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Armstrong was launched into the international spotlight and helped to increase the popularity of cycling around the world. He won the Tour de France seven times in a row before retiring at the age of 33. Armstrong returned years later – although not at the same level of dominance – and ran in a handful of great runs before retiring again.

Despite all his success and glory, Armstrong's career was not without controversy. Since the beginning of his dominance in the cycling world, he has been constantly accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs – accusations that he vehemently denied. Eventually, however, the truth reached him. In 2012, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories, following a report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and in 2013, he publicly admitted that he had doped during each of his Tour de France victories.

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The raise …

Before his victory at the 1999 Tour de FranceArmstrong had been cycling around the world for years – he was a triathlete in his teens, after all.

Even before his cancer diagnosis, Armstrong was winning races. In 1993, he won the Thrift Drug Classic in Pittsburgh, the K-Mart West Virginia Classic and the national CoreStates USPRO championship in Philadelphia – a trio of victories known collectively as the Triple Thrift Drug Crown of Cycling.

In 1999, his first victory on the tour de France was driven in part by four victories in the stage. He beat Alex Zülle, the runner-up, by 7 minutes and 37 seconds. However, Jan Ullrich – with whom he would later have an established rivalry – did not participate because of an injury, so Armstrong was not yet at the top of the cycling world. Marco Pantani, an Italian cyclist, was also unable to participate in 1999.

Ullrich and Pantani were back on the 2000 Tour de France – and thus began the Armstrong-Ullrich rivalry. Armstrong defeated Ullrich by 6 minutes and 2 seconds in the 2000 Tour de France, despite winning just one stage. Armstrong also won bronze at the 2000 Summer Olympics.

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In 2001, Armstrong again beat Ullrich by victory, for 6 minutes and 44 seconds. In 2002, Ullrich did not participate due to the suspension, and Armstrong took the best honors about Joseba Beloki from Spain for 7 minutes.

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Again in 2003, it was the same story: Armstrong defeated Ullrich for just a few minutes. In 2004, Armstrong won his sixth Tour de France record, finishing 6 minutes and 19 seconds ahead of German cyclist Andreas Klöden – Ullrich finished fourth.

Armstrong won again in 2005 – and then announced that he would be retiring spend time with your family and devote your efforts to the foundation of cancer.

… and the fall

In 2008, Armstrong came out of retirement. He continued to dispel doping charges and he told ESPN he was prepared to work harder to continue competing at the elite level – as he is now 37 years old.

ESPN profiled Armstrong for his first race in January 2009, the Tour Down Under in Australia. Of the 127 drivers who completed the race, Armstrong finished 27th without a shine.

Despite fighting in several races – and still avoiding claims that he never competed on a Tour de France while he was clean – Armstrong decided to take part in the 2009 race. Armstrong finished third that July, but as Bonnie Ford of ESPN noted, it was still impressiveHe was 38 and was away from professional cycling for three years.

Before the 2010 Tour de France, Armstrong said it would be his last race. Around that time, his former U.S. teammate Floyd Landis sent emails to cycling officials detailing his use of drugs to improve performance while competing for the US Postal Service team. Landis also accused Armstrong and other teammates of doing the same.

"I want to clear my conscience" Landis told ESPN at the time. "I don't want to be part of the problem anymore."

Still denying the allegations and claiming there was no evidence, Armstrong competed in the 2010 Tour de France months after Landis emails, coming in 23rd place.

Armstrong was unable to avoid the charges even in retirement. More of your former teammates began to break the silence in 2011, in a preview of the evidence they will provide against him in the case of the US Anti-Doping Agency.

In October 2012, a USADA report against Armstrong left no doubt that he didped most of his career. He did not contest the case, was stripped of all achievements from August 1998, and finally received a lifetime ban on cycling.

Finally, Armstrong publicly confessed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in January 2013. The interview was emotionless and it was not clear whether Armstrong regretted what he did. He admitted to doping in every Tour de France in which he competed and won.

In April 2018, the long legal path is over to Armstrong and Landis when they reached a settlement in the federal Landis complaints case, which was pursued by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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