By Séamus Smyth

Even for the most devoted Armstrong loyalists, there is no more denying that the cycling icon did in fact use performance-enhancing drugs at some point during his unforgettable run of seven Tour de France titles.

The final blow was delivered this past week when the International Cycling Union announced that Armstrong would be stripped of all titles and would ban him from all future competitions, thereby validating the accusations made by Armstrong’s former teammates.

Over the past ten years, fans have been treated to an obscene number of revelations that some of sports most prolific characters have cheated by injecting a foreign substance into their physique.

But this case delivers a stab of pain to the hearts of fans perhaps greater than any other that has preceded it.

Armstrong battled cancer and won. But he didn’t stop. He managed to continue dominating his sport, thereby cementing him as the greatest cyclist to ever live. But he didn’t stop there either. He formed the Livestrong campaign, a cancer-fighting machine that has now raised a half-billion dollars.

The yellow Livestrong bracelets were inescapable for years and were able to finally put a visage on cancer’s number one nemesis; human will.

For the past decade, Armstrong’s heroism has expanded well beyond the cycling ether.

Yet, here we are, surrounded by empty shells from the media and cyclists who have taken every shot and blast at Armstrong until finally they have been declared victorious. Yet, as easy as it would be to blame the cash-grabbers and the TV vultures for poisoning the Armstrong image, this is no fault of anyone but Armstrong’s.

What is so disheartening about the doping is that there no longer exists an athlete that can captivate and motivate an endless audience the way Armstrong could. The cycling was excellent, but his non-stop championship reign and perseverance against cancerous cells elevated him to a status arguably never seen before.

There was Michael Jordan. There was Terry Fox. One could make a case for Phil Michelson, but he is nowhere near the caliber of athlete that Armstrong was.

But then Tiger Woods turned out to be a raging nympho. David Beckham hasn’t been a true soccer superstar since 2004. Sidney Crosby is a robot. Tom Brady serves as the ultimate bro-crush but does not qualify as a true sports hero.

Armstrong dominated his sport while sporting an invisible cape. He was more than just the best in his respective sport; he was a modern-day Superman.

But that dream has been shattered. The sporting stratosphere will not forget the accomplishments of Armstrong, nor his outstanding contributions via Livestrong. But just as so many other athletes that we assumed Armstrong was better than, he will have an eternal asterisk beside his name, ensuring that no one will forget that although he was a legend, a champion, and a philanthropist, he was also a proven cheater.