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Lance Armstrong is a professional American cyclist and testicular cancer survivor who, in 2012, was stripped of the seven Tour de France titles he won from 1999 to 2005 due to evidence of performance-enhancing drug use.
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He started off well in his first-ever Tour de France, a 21-stage race that is widely considered cycling's most prestigious event. Though he won the eighth stage of the race, he later fell to 62nd place and eventually pulled out.
In August 1993, the 21-year-old Armstrong won his most important race yet: the World Road Race Championship in Oslo, Norway, a one-day event covering 161 miles. As the leader of the Motorola team,
he overcame difficult conditions—pouring rain made the roads slick and caused him to crash twice during the race—to become the youngest person and only the second American ever to win that contest.
The following year, he was again the runner-up at the Tour DuPont. Frustrated by his near miss, he trained with a vengeance for the next year's event, which he won, finishing two minutes ahead of his closest rival, Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia, who had defeated him in 1994. He repeated at the Tour DuPont in 1996, setting several event records, including largest margin of victory (three minutes, 15 seconds) and fastest average speed in a time trial (32.9 miles per hour).
Also in 1996, Armstrong rode again for the Olympic team in Atlanta, Georgia. Looking uncharacteristically fatigued, he finished sixth in the time trials and 12th in the road race. Earlier that summer, he had been unable to finish the Tour de France, as he was sick with bronchitis. Despite such setbacks, Armstrong was still riding high by the fall of 1996. Then the seventh-ranked cyclist in the world, he signed a lucrative contract with a new team, France's Team Cofidis.
In October 1996, however, came the shocking announcement that Armstrong had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Well advanced, the tumors had spread to his abdomen, lungs, and lymph nodes. After having a testicle removed, drastically modifying his eating habits, and beginning aggressive chemotherapy, Armstrong was given a 65 to 85 percent chance of survival. When doctors found tumors on his brain, however, his odds of survival dropped to 50-50, and then to 40 percent. Fortunately, a subsequent surgery to remove his brain tumors was declared successful, and after more rounds of chemotherapy, Armstrong was declared cancer-free in February 1997.
Throughout his terrifying struggle with the disease, Armstrong had continued to maintain that he was going to race competitively again. No one else seemed to believe in him, however, least of all Cofidis, who canceled his contract and $600,000 annual salary. As a free agent, he had a good deal of trouble finding a sponsor, finally signing on to a $200,000 per year position with the United States Postal Service team.
Armstrong retired in 2005, only to announce three years later, on September 9, 2008, that he planned to return to competition and the Tour de France in 2009. He placed third in the race, beaten by his teammate, race leader Alberto Contador and Saxo Bank team member Andy Schleck. After the race, Armstrong told reporters that he intended to compete again in 2010, with a new team endorsed by Radio Shack.
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For some athletes, the risk of losing—or even being less than the best—is worse than the many consequences of doping in professional sports, and for decades, performance-enhancing drug controversies have made headlines around the world. Other athletes have garnered media attention, criminal charges and sporting suspensions for their recreational drug use. Biography.com examines some of the world's greatest athletes to ever fall from fame, whose names have been tarnished by drugs scandals, including Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Marion Jones, Andre Agassi, Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong.
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