In a tell-all confessional interview with US television personality Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France title seven times in a row. Armstrong, who had long denied allegations of doping, called his cycling career "one big lie."
At the end of October 2012, it became official. The International Cycling Union (UCI) officially revoked Armstrong's seven Tour de France titles, won in succession between 1999 and 2005. It was an unfitting end to what was once hailed as a cancer-defying fairytale. Suddenly, the sporting hero became one of the biggest sporting drug cheats of all time.
Evidently, it wasn't just hard work that brought Armstrong his unprecedented success - but also Dr. Michele Ferrari (in the center of this picture). Now nicknamed "Doctor Epo," the famed doctor worked with professional cyclists from 1995. He was paid around $1 million for his work with Armstrong.
Armstrong's genetic father left the family home when Lance was very young, his stepfather was abusive. Sport became an outlet for Armstrong to escape family life. He became a triathlete aged 13, and was competing in adult events by the age of 16 - his boundless ambition impressed many.
Armstrong was just 21 when he burst onto the world cycling radar, winning the 1993 UCI Road World Championship in Oslo. Armstrong stunned the more experienced professionals and became the youngest ever winner of the competition.
Three years later, Armstrong's life was thrown into disarray. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer, with signs that the disease was spreading to his stomach, lungs and brain. Armstrong underwent several operations and a course of chemotherapy, ultimately beating the disease.
Armstrong was back in the saddle in 1998. But his recovery wasn't the only surprise. Known as a sprint specialist in his "first career," suddenly Armstrong appeared competitive in the longer Tour events of world cycling. Armstrong won the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) in his comeback season; one year later, he secured his first Tour de France victory.
Armstrong didn't stop there, he went on to win the Tour for another six years through 2005. His most frequent, fiercest opponent was Germany's Jan Ullrich (left), who has also admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs. For Armstrong, allegations of cheating surfaced during his last Tour triumph, with the French "L'Equipe" sports paper saying it had found evidence of doping in a 1999 sample.
Armstrong denied these 2005 allegations and he was cleared by the UCI cycling body in a special hearing. During his career, he did not officially fail any drugs test. But the allegations continued to pile up. UCI President Dennis McQuaid said in 2010 that his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, accepted two donations from Armstrong's cancer foundation totaling $125,000 - a move McQuaid called a mistake.
Armstrong retired after his 2005 Tour victory in this image. But he made a shock return in 2008. As in the 1999-2005 glory years, Belgian Johan Bruyneel (l.) was his team boss. The pair couldn't rekindle the magic, though, and Armstrong retired again in 2011 after a less successful comeback.
After retiring, Armstrong said he would concentrate on his "Livestrong" cancer foundation. As he sought to bow out of the limelight, his past caught up with him. The US Anti-Doping Agency officially filed charges against him in June 2012. Despite vehemently denying the allegations, Armstong ultimately announced he did not intend to launch a legal defense against what he called "a witch hunt."
Ever the competitor, Armstrong returned to his roots as a triathlete. This avenue is now closed to him, however, because of a doping ban for all competitive sport. As a final indignity prior to the airing of his Oprah Winfrey interview, the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday stripped him of his bronze medal at the Sydney 2000 Games, three months after the UCI deleted his cycling records.
Lance Armstrong was once known as the greatest cyclist of all time. For many people, the seven-times tour winner is still a hero, albeit a fallen one.