With the news that seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is ineligible to compete in triathlons due to an investigation from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, we thought we’d look back at his return to multi-sport. We also look ahead to important dates and qualification criteria in the lead up to October’s Ironman World Championship.
Sept. 9, 2011 – After a couple of weeks of speculation, Armstrong confirms on his @Juanpelota twitter account that he would in fact be returning to triathlon at the 2011 Xterra USA Championships saying, “Looking fwd to my first tri in 20+ yrs. @XTERRAoffroad in Ogden, UT. See you all there!”
Sept. 23, 2011 – The day before the Xterra USA Championship in Ogden, Utah, Armstrong talks about his return to the sport: “As much as I would like to think I could win or be a favorite I think it’s irresponsible to think that way. I haven’t done a triathlon in 22 or 23 years, haven’t done a mass start swim like that in just as long. This sport is very different. Just think about starting with hundreds of people in the water, think about the specificity of transitions. My transitions in the last 22 years have been all in the last week playing around in my garage, and I don’t know if that’s good enough. I’ll go out, have fun, push myself as hard as I can, and we’ll see.”
Sept. 24, 2011 – Armstrong finishes fifth at the Xterra USA Championship. “I was nervous,” Armstrong says after the race. “I was just trying to stay focused on what I had to do today just because I was so freaked out. It had been so long. I didn’t sleep last night.”
Oct. 9, 2011 – Armstrong races and wins a small off-road triathlon in Tempe, Ariz. called the Four Peaks Urban Dirt Triathlon. He gets in the spirit of the event and takes a dive on the slip-and-slide after crossing the finish line.
Oct. 20, 2011 – Armstrong looks ahead to racing the Xterra World Championships in Maui, Hawaii. “I’ll be happy going out there and giving my best,” he explained. “Maybe that’s top-five and maybe that’s top-10. Could be better. That’s why we have to race. We have to get out there and find out.”
Oct. 23, 2011 – After racing among the leaders on the swim and bike at the Xterra World Championship, Armstrong crashes his bike and struggles through the run, ultimately finishing 23rd.
“When they already have you on the ropes in the swim, then the first part of the bike seems to be even harder,” said Armstrong. “And it’s hard just because you’re transitioning from upper body work to lower body work, I was already in the red so it took me longer to get into a groove on the bike. That course starts hard and stays hard.”
Feb. 3, 2012 – The U.S. Department of Justice closes its two-year investigation without filing charges on Armstrong. The investigation, headed by federal agent Jeff Novitzky, focused on alleged performance enhancing drug use by Armstrong and his former U.S. Postal Service teammates in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Feb. 9, 2012 – Armstrong announces his intention to qualify for the 2012 Ironman World Championship and confirms plans to race at Ironman 70.3 Panama, Ironman 70.3 Texas, Ironman 70.3 Florida, Ironman 70.3 Hawaii and Ironman France. The press release also discloses a partnership between Livestrong and Ironman, saying that the goal is to raise more than $1 million.
Feb. 9, 2012 – Armstrong talks to the media about his return to triathlon: “I’m most worried about anything run related… It’s the [sport] I’ve been away from the longest…adding volume, adding intensity—that’s probably the thing that worries me the most. The one thing that could derail all of this is if you had a nagging injury from running that you just couldn’t get over. I don’t care what anybody says; the run is the most important part of this thing.”
Feb. 12, 2012 – Armstrong makes his debut on the Ironman circuit, finishing second behind ITU star Bevan Docherty at Ironman 70.3 Panama.
April 1, 2012 – Armstrong finishes seventh at Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston. He leads off of the bike. Ultimately, he struggles on the run.
April 23, 2012 – Armstrong adds a new race to his triathlon schedule. He makes the announcement on his Twitter account, @LanceArmstrong: “It has been almost 25 years but I’m excited to announce my return to St. Croix for the Ironman St. Croix 70.3. Beauty and the Beast.”
May 6, 2012 – Armstrong finishes third behind Andy Potts and Stéphane Poulat at Ironman 70.3 St. Croix.
May 20, 2012 – Armstrong builds an insurmountable lead off of the bike at Ironman 70.3 Florida and takes his first half-Ironman win.
May 22, 2012 – In an exclusive interview with Triathlete.com, Armstrong talks about what he’s learned after racing the 70.3 distance four times: “At least it seems—and it’s not a knock on other people’s tactics—but for me, my run is not going to be affected by my effort on the bike. It’s probably a better strategy for me in the future to utilize my strengths. Even if I rode an easy bike, I’m not going to get off and run 1:11. But I suspect I can ride harder than I rode Sunday and still run 1:14, 1:16, somewhere in there. I believe that if I can constantly ride close to two hours and run 1:15, maybe you’re not always going to win every race, but you’re gonna be close.”
June 2, 2012 – Armstrong beats out veterans Greg Bennett and Chris Lieto to take the win at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii. His finish time of 3:50:55 breaks the course record, which was previously held by two-time Ironman world champion Chris McCormack, by seven minutes.
June 8, 2012 – The NBC Network and Ironman announce that this year’s Ironman World Championship broadcast will be earlier than usual and will likely feature an increased focus on Armstrong.
June 13, 2012 – The Washington Post reports that USADA has sent the seven-time Tour de France champion and others a 15-page letter outlining the allegations that stem from his run with the U.S. Postal Service and Discovery team between 1998 and 2005, as well as his comeback in 2009-2010. The World Triathlon Corporation (owners of Ironman) announces that because of the investigation Armstrong would not be eligible to participate in any WTC owned or licensed events.
Armstrong responds to the investigation saying, “I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one. That USADA ignores this fundamental distinction and charges me instead of the admitted dopers says far more about USADA, its lack of fairness and this vendetta than it does about my guilt or innocence.”
June 15, 2012 – The World Triathlon Corporation will release a follow-up statement on the situation.
June 22, 2012 – Armstrong has until this date to respond in writing to the allegations from the USADA.
June 24, 2012 – Ironman France will take place. Armstrong had planned on competing at this race.
July 29, 2012 – The first 40 Ironman World Championship spots will be handed out to the male professionals. For Armstrong to be given a spot in this round he must be high enough in the Kona Pro Rankings and must have completed an Ironman distance event, something he has yet to do. Currently Armstrong sits as the 62nd ranked athlete in the standings.
Aug. 27, 2012 – The final 10 Ironman World Championship spots will be given to the male professionals. Again, Armstrong must be high enough in the rankings and have completed an Ironman to be considered for a Kona start. Although it is not in the current Ironman Pro Membership rules, the World Triathlon Corporation had said they reserve the right to assign “wildcard entries” to professionals. Last year no wildcard entries were handed out, but former Ironman world champion Natascha Badmann was given a one-year extension to her automatic qualifying status.
Oct. 13, 2012 – The 2012 Ironman World Championship will take place in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
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– Photos: Lance Armstrong Wins Ironman 70.3 Florida
– Video: Lance Armstrong Talks 70.3 Race Tactics
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– A Conversation With Lance Armstrong