After years of denials, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong admitted to using illegal performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career earlier this week.
The admission drew a mixed reaction in Rockland County.
"A lot of people were closely connected that sport and know of Armstrong," said Nanuet resident Jamie Kempton, President of the Rockland County Road Runners. "The people I spoke to and myself, there was a trust broken there. I don't think it can be repaired. All this time, he'd been saying, 'I didn't do drugs. I achieved those seven victories the clean way. Now to acknowledge this, his credibility took a real hit.
"Here's a fellow who based his life story on the fact that he had gotten cancer and he overcame it to become a champion cyclist. In hindsight it was a fraud. He didn't achieve it by legal means."
Rob Ohnikian, owner of Bicycle Depot in Pearl River, said the story is less of a conversation starter now than it would have been in the warmer months in his store.
"It was talked about during the summer and fall," Ohnikian said. "He put road bike racing back on the map. You see everybody road cycling. The Tour de France wins did that. It's a shame. My opinion is if everyone is doing it, he's doing to do it to level the playing field. It's a sign of today's times."
Ohnikian and Albert Marrero of Congers Bike Shop, said they do not expect the news to have an impact on their business.
"My business was affected when he was riding and winning," Ohnikian said. "I don't know if there will be any negative effects now.
“The Lance Armstrong situation hasn’t affected my business, but the he’s affected his sponsors and the people who invested in him,” said Marrero, referring to merchandise that Armstrong has branded over the years. “It was a tragedy, but it’s been dragged out for too long. Leave him alone, he’s confessed now. I think he should be fined, but not jailed. Let him live his life. He can’t bike anymore and that’s what he loved. He’s heartbroken. His name is ruined and he’ll have to live with this for the rest of his life. Isn’t that punishment enough? He needs credit for all the good he’s done for cancer.”
Dave Nazaroff, owner of Toga Bike Shop in Nyack, said the news was not a big surprise to those who had been following Armstrong's story.
“Lance doesn’t affect people riding bikes. People are obviously disappointed with what he had to say, but it wasn’t a shock to everybody. Anyone who is serious about cycling and rides a lot and follows the Lance Armstrong situation is not (surprised). I hope people still donate to the cause against cancer (Livestrong).
“It’s much bigger than Lance. He didn’t start it and he won’t end it, drugs and sports. It was just the culture of cycling at the time,” said Nazaroff, referring to other sports with similar issues, such as baseball. “It’s nothing compared to society and other issues. This is a big story and makes news headlines. But as far as cycling, hopefully it’ll make the sport cleaner.”
Kempton said Armstrong provided a boost to endurance sports in general, not just cycling, but the impact of his PED use can't be anything but negative.
"He was a towering figure. He went above the sport of cycling," Kempton said. "That was then and this is now. There is a saying that any recognition is good recognition. In this case, it is just so overwhelmingly negative."