There are thousands of avid cyclists in Philadelphia and the surrounding area, and Linda McGrane is certain each one has their own, separate opinion about Lance Armstrong and his admission of doping during his professional cycling career.
"There are some who suspected it all along and are very disillusioned by him," said McGrane, vice president and former president of the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia. "There are also some who are still inspired by his fight against cancer and the work hs foundation has done."
According to a report by the Associated Press, Armstrong confessed to using performance enhancing drugs during a taped interview with Oprah Winfrey that will air Thursday night on Winfrey's OWN network (check local listings). It is still unknown what exactly Armstrong told Winfrey, but a source tells the AP that prior to the interview on Monday, Armstrong apologized to staff at the New York headquarters of Livestrong, a cancer support network he founded in 1997.
"He expressed his regret for the stress the team suffered in recent years as a result of the controversy surrounding his cycling career," states a release from the Livestrong Foundation. "He asked that they stay focused on serving people affected by cancer, something our team has always done excellently and will continue to do."
McGrane says she has heard opinions through personal conversations and by listening to talk radio, and while there are plenty of strong reactions, many just want more information.
"Many cyclists that I have spoken to want more of the truth to unfold," said McGrane. "Why choose this moment to confess? How widespread is this problem? There's still a lot of truth to be told."
It's impossible for McGrane to deny the impact Armstrong's story had on the sport of cycling. After getting diagnosed in 1996 with testicular cancer, which also infected his lungs and brain, Armstrong underwent treatments that eventually eliminated the disease and, by 1998, returned to competitive cycling as a member of the US Postal/Discovery team. Between 1999 and 2005, Armstrong placed first in seven consecutive Tour de France races.
His incredible comeback from cancer made Armstrong a household name and an instantly recognizable face for the cycling world. Armstrong graced magazine covers, racked up major endorsements, appeared in film and television shows and dated celebrities such as musician Sheryl Crow.
Doping allegations began popping up in 2004, accusations that Armstrong vehemently denied, calling them "witch hunts" and, in one case, earning a $500,000 settlement from London's Sunday Times during a libel suit. The newspaper is seeking to recover the money, plus interest and the cost of defending the case, in a $1.5 million lawsuit filed in December 2012.
The accusations reached a fever pitch last year when the United States Anti-Doping Agency released a 1,000-page detailed report accusing Armstrong of engaging in a major doping scheme. The fallout from the report included the International Cycling Union stripping Armstrong of his Tour de France titles, the loss of major endorsements and stepped down as chairman of Livestrong.
McGrane says that the positive impact that Armstrong earned at the height of his career could continue during his fall from grace, shining more light on an issue that gets more attention in other sports. A few weeks ago, the voting members of the Baseball Hall of Fame declined induction to players that are suspected of using performance enhancing drugs, such as Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens.
"If we want cycling to be a legitimate competitive sport, then the athletes must receive the same amount of scrutiny as baseball and football," said McGrane. "This could just be the beginning of a much larger problem."