Cyclists spend years of their lives training for the chance to don a leader’s yellow jersey in one of the 21 stages of the Tour De France.
But there can only be one General Classification champion in yellow at the end of the gruelling event.
Except the year there was none …
On the famous race’s centenary, July 27 in 2003, the race had no final winner.
Fans were shocked to discover that American favourite Lance Armstrong – who had originally won the event – had been disqualified for taking performance-enhancing drugs.
The explosive revelations tarnished the professional cyclist’s reputation forever and ended his record-breaking career.
To complicate matters further, the man who dobbed on him was former teammate Floyd Landis, who was previously stripped of a title for drug cheating.
Fans of Armstrong were devastated.
To many, the cancer survivor was viewed as a sports icon who had miraculously overcome a deadly disease to win the most Tour de France races in the event’s history.
For years, the cyclist had consistently denied he had been doping.
The simple truth is that we outwork everyone. But when you perform at a higher level in a race, you get questions about doping.’’
– Lance Armstrong, January 2001
But after an investigation in October 2012, the United States anti-doping agency released more than 1000 pages of evidence revealing doping allegations against Armstrong and his teammates.
The athlete was found to be using the peptide hormone erythropoietin (EPO), testosterone, cortisone, human growth hormones and illegal blood transfusions.
The agency stripped Armstrong of all of his titles since 1998, including his record seven consecutive Tour de France wins from 1999 to 2005.
His continual denials started to look like a string of lies.
But even after the evidence was revealed, Armstrong did not immediately admit to the deception.
Why would I enter into a sport and then dope myself up and risk my life again? That’s crazy. I would never do that. No way.’’
– Lance Armstrong, August 2005
The investigation found that Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs over the course of his career, and even went as far as naming him the ringleader in “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”.
In 2013, Armstrong finally admitted to cheating.
I viewed this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times … They are my mistakes, and I am sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I’m sorry for that.’’
– Lance Armstrong, January 2013
The fallen athlete received a lifetime ban from all sports that followed the World Anti-Doping Code.