Armstrong robbed others of shot at fame

SUPERHUMAN sporting feats are something fanatics, like me, live for.

Those individual moments of brilliance in a game, string of title defences or remarkable comebacks against seemingly impossible odds that make sport so engaging. That's what we crave.

Tiger Woods once held all four major championships at the same time, Michael Phelps won eight gold medals from as many events at the 2008 Olympics, Don Bradman was ... well ... Don Bradman, and Lance Armstrong won seven straight Tour de France titles. At the time they all seemed superhuman and we now know at least one was.

To put it simply, Armstrong is a cheat. Yes, he's done plenty for charity.

Yes, he's raised millions of dollars for cancer research and treatment, and yes, he's probably inspired millions of people to get off their backside and ride a bike but he's still a dirty cheat and nothing will ever change that.

The same goes for Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, just about any East German elite athlete of the 1970s and 80s and it seems most professional cyclists. These people have disgraced themselves, their sport and stolen opportunity away from competitors who played by the rules. So while others may ask me to look beyond Armstrong's systematic cheating and appreciate his humanitarian efforts, it's not going to happen.

I won't look beyond cheating because it taints everything I love about sport. Great sportsmen become great by finding that little bit extra within them to win.

Whether that's talent, in the case of Roger Federer's ridiculous cross-court winners, or determination like Lleyton Hewitt's unfaltering will to win, finding something extra is what separates the best from the also-rans.

Unfortunately, Lance Armstrong found that bit extra in a syringe.

The saddest thing is Armstrong was such an incredible athlete, who's to say he wouldn't have been a star regardless. That we'll never know.

What we'll also never know is who else may have won fame, fortune and accolades if Armstrong and his band of merry cheats had have been clean.

That, too, we'll never know.

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