‘‘My opinion of him as a man has not changed. His pro career is past and that’s where it stays for me,’’ said De Respino, who lives in the New York City area and gives regularly to Livestrong. ‘‘He’s a cancer survivor and his entire story revolves forward from that. If you want to take one piece of his life and make that the only story, that’s your choice. But I think that’s one reason he chose not to fight anymore. He’s got bigger fish to fry. He’s got a foundation that needs his full-time attention.’’
The fervent support the 41-year-old Armstrong still engenders, in the wake of such damning facts and testimony from nearly a dozen ex-teammates, is a sign of the emotion his story still holds. That’s an element missing from the stories of Jones, Bonds, Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and others who've been tainted by the cloud of performance-enhancing drugs.
None of them overcame what Armstrong did.
That point was driven home in a blog written in August, after Armstrong gave up fighting the sanctions, by Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, the deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. Lichtenfeld watched Armstrong give a passionate presentation to the Texas state Legislature years ago in support of a multibillion-dollar funding bill for cancer research. The legislation passed, with no small credit to Armstrong, Lichtenfeld said.
‘‘I will tell you hands down I have never witnessed anything so powerful as I witnessed that night,’’ Lichtenfeld wrote. ‘‘He created a mission that will live long past him, and will survive whatever people choose to make of the events surrounding him. He has taken the message of survivorship to the world with a power that no one else possesses.’’
Lichtenfeld declined an interview request but said his feelings haven’t changed.
Jay Kornegay, race and sports book director at The LVH casino, has watched his industry profit when emotion, at times, trumps logic in decisions made through the prism of sports. He sees how that could happen with Armstrong, even as his story plays to an increasingly savvy and more cynical public.
He guesses the resilience of Armstrong and his brand is as much a sign of steroid fatigue as anything else.
‘‘I think this is just a simple case of people saying, ‘We've heard the story before. Everybody does it,'’’ Kornegay said. ‘‘He’s a great humanitarian who helps so many others, and he continues to do so. So, they say, ‘Hey, we’re going to give him a mulligan on this one.'’’