Lance Armstrong is one of the most polarizing figures in sports. The former professional cyclist won the Tour de France a record 7 consecutive times between 1999 and 2005. However, in 2012, Armstrong was stripped of all of his Tour titles and banned from cycling for life after admitting to using performance enhancing drugs.
Despite his dramatic fall from grace, Armstrong still has legions of devoted fans around the world. In this article, we’ll explore some of the main reasons why people continue to love and support Lance Armstrong.
His Inspirational Cancer Survival Story
One of the biggest reasons why Armstrong remains so popular is his inspiring story of beating cancer. In 1996, at just 25 years old, Armstrong was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. He was given less than a 50% chance of survival by doctors.
After undergoing multiple surgeries and months of intensive chemotherapy, Armstrong miraculously beat his cancer. Just three years later, he won his first Tour de France, a feat that many thought was impossible after the physical toll of cancer treatments.
Armstrong’s against-all-odds recovery from a nearly fatal disease continues to inspire people around the world. He is seen as a symbol of hope, perseverance and the will to survive. Beating cancer gave Armstrong a fearless mindset in cycling and people admire his tenacious attitude.
His Dominance at the Tour de France
Another reason for Armstrong’s widespread popularity was his total dominance at the Tour de France in the early 2000s. From 1999 to 2005, he won cycling’s most prestigious event a record 7 consecutive times.
Some key stats about his Tour de France reign:
- Won by large margins – His narrowest margin of victory was over 6 minutes
- Never finished below 3rd place in any stage
- Won 11 individual stages at the Tour de France
- His streak of 7 wins is the most in Tour history
Armstrong was clearly on another level compared to his competitors during this era. Very few athletes have ever had this type of sustained dominance in any major event or championship. Armstrong’s repeated Tour victories established him as a larger-than-life icon in the cycling world.
His Work for Cancer Research
After surviving cancer himself, Armstrong devoted himself to raising funds and awareness for cancer research. In 1997, he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation which later became the Livestrong Foundation.
Through the sale of over 87 million distinctive yellow Livestrong bracelets, Armstrong has raised over $500 million for cancer research. He has also advocated for increases in cancer research funding in Congress.
Armstrong’s post-cancer efforts have improved and even saved lives around the world. People admire his willingness to take his personal tragedy and turn it into a force for good. The Livestrong Foundation’s contributions are a major part of Armstrong’s lasting legacy.
His Personality and Competitiveness
Another trait that draws people to Armstrong is his fierce competitiveness and unique personality. He is known for his direct, no-nonsense style and taunting of rivals. Fans are attracted to his mental and physical toughness.
Some key personality traits and examples that made Armstrong popular:
- Intense training work ethic – Would train 5-6 hours daily
- Never backed down from rivals or media critics
- Provocative interview style – Made bold statements and daring guarantees
- Notoriously competitive even in small games or activities
While also controversial, Armstrong’s brash and confrontational style sets him apart. People admire his raw passion and relentlessness in everything he does. He remains totally dedicated to winning at all costs.
He Overcame Difficult Odds
In addition to his cancer, Armstrong has battled other significant obstacles on his road to cycling stardom:
- Born to a single-parent household – Dad left when he was 2
- His mom had to work multiple jobs to support family
- Began competing in triathlons at just 13 years old
- Turned pro and joined cycling team with minimal experience at 21
- Won World Championship just 4 years after his cancer treatment
Despite his difficult upbringing and health challenges, Armstrong still achieved his cycling dreams. This underdog backstory makes his success more meaningful and inspirational to fans. He embodies the idea that perseverance and hard work can help you accomplish anything, no matter the setbacks.
He Brought Cycling into the Mainstream
Lastly, people appreciate Armstrong for dramatically increasing cycling’s popularity around the world. In the US particularly, he made professional cycling a more mainstream sport.
- Americans won only one Tour de France before him
- His Tour wins were broadcast on major TV networks
- Nike signed him to a big endorsement deal in 1996
- Total prize money in pro cycling began increasing significantly
- More Americans began following and participating in cycling
By becoming a household name and marketable celebrity, Armstrong’s achievements inspired more people to get involved in cycling worldwide. New races started popping up across America and he remains a key figure that expanded cycling interest globally.
In summary, Lance Armstrong remains a beloved sports icon for several important reasons:
- His miraculous cancer survival story
- Record-setting 7 consecutive Tour de France wins
- Massive charitable contributions to cancer research
- Fiercely competitive personality and work ethic
- Ability to overcome difficult life challenges and setbacks
- Role in bringing cycling into the mainstream spotlight
While Armstrong has his detractors as well, his enduring popularity and fan loyalty stems from the incredible resilience he demonstrated throughout his life and career. The combination of his athletic excellence and philanthropic drive cemented his status as one of the most inspiring figures in sports.
Frequently Asked Questions
What cancer did Lance Armstrong have?
Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996 that later spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. He underwent multiple surgeries and months of intensive chemotherapy before being declared cancer-free in 1997.
How much money has Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation raised?
Since its launch in 1997, the Livestrong Foundation has raised over $500 million to support cancer research, prevention and patient care programs. Much of the funds came from the sale of the organization’s iconic yellow wristbands.
Did Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France 7 times?
Yes, Armstrong won the Tour de France for a record 7 consecutive years between 1999 and 2005. However, he was later stripped of those titles and banned from cycling after admitting to using performance enhancing drugs.
How old was Lance Armstrong when he was diagnosed with cancer?
Lance Armstrong was just 25 years old in 1996 when he received his initial cancer diagnosis after noticing a painful lump on one of his testicles. At the time, he had already won a world championship and was on the rise as a young pro cyclist.
Why do some people not like Lance Armstrong?
The biggest reason many people dislike Armstrong is due to his use of banned substances and illegal doping during his cycling career. After years of denial, Armstrong admitted to doping in a January 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey. He was subsequently banned from the sport and stripped of his Tour titles.