USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles. I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours. We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront. There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that. Especially not Travis Tygart.
Lance Armstrong isn’t the only rider to cheat death and later return to win his sport’s most prestigious event. Greg LeMond’s career followed this same story line. In 1987 Greg LeMond was on his way to cycling dominance. He’d won the previous year’s Tour de France and placed second (by design) the year before that. But in 1987 LeMond’s career took an unexpected turn.
In April that year LeMond went on a wild turkey-hunt with his uncle and brother-in-law on a ranch in Lincoln, California. During the hunt the three split up and lost track of one another. Out on his own, LeMond hid in some bushes to stalk his prey. He wasn’t there long when his brother-in-law, thinking he was an animal, mistakenly shot him in the back at close range with a shotgun.
LeMond’s right lung collapsed. His kidney, liver, intestine, and diaphragm were all hit. Even more serous, two shotgun pellets were lodged in the lining of his heart. They were miles away from home with LeMond losing a tremendous amount of blood. He was eventually flown by helicopter to a hospital outside of San Francisco. After more than two hours of surgery, doctors were only able to remove about half of the approximately 60 shotgun pellets scattered throughout his body.
LeMond would not be able to compete in any events for the next two years. They would be missed as part of his long road to recovery. Finally, in 1989, LeMond would begin his cycling comeback. He struggled early in the season and didn’t enter the 1989 Tour de France as a favorite. LeMond crushed all expectations including his own (his personal goal was to finish in the top 20). With 30 shotgun pellets in his body, including the two in the lining of his heart, LeMond won his second Tour de France by eight seconds. To this day it’s the slimmest margin of victory the Tour has ever seen.
A Chitwood & Hobbs Field Report