MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.
New allegations emerged late last week that Lance Armstrong used illegal performance-enhancing drugs. The cycling superstar's former teammate, Tyler Hamilton, made those allegations on CBS' "60 Minutes."
Hamilton said he told a federal grand jury he and Armstrong both doped while riding for the U.S. Postal Team in Tour de France races. Austin, Texas, is Lance Armstrong's hometown, and as NPR's John Burnett tells us, in Austin the doping accusations are beginning to tear at his once titanic reputation.
JOHN BURNETT: Lance Armstrong is Austin's favorite son. He lives here. His stylish, pricey bicycle shop, Mellow Johnny's, is here. His cancer-fighting foundation is headquartered here, and the yellow, rubber Livestrong bracelets are nearly as common as tattoos.
And in central Austin, cyclists pedal down the Lance Armstrong Bikeway.
Mr. STEVE GODFREY (Bike Messenger): My name is Steve Godfrey. I'm an independent bicycle messenger.
BURNETT: The 39-year-old cyclist from Louisiana stops to chat on his way to a delivery and strokes his push-broom beard.
Mr. GODFREY: To me, I guess I would just say it's a difficult situation in that he's become such an iconic hero to so many people. And it's almost like a 21st-century Shakespearian tragedy, maybe, in a way.
Mr. SAM BURNS: My name is Sam Burns, and I work at the University of Texas.
BURNETT: If it turns out that Armstrong doped and lied about it, will it hurt his image in his hometown?
Mr. BURNS: I think it will somewhat. He's built up a really positive reputation, one that a lot of people respect both for his athleticism and the cause that he's taken up. And I think that it will be tarnished a bit. I think that ultimately, people will probably forgive him, given the seemingly pervasive use of this kind of stuff, and hopefully cycling will get cleaned up as a result.
BURNETT: Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles are looking into whether the seven-time Tour de France champion cheated to win his titles. Former teammate Tyler Hamilton's damaging statements about Armstrong come a year after similar allegations made by Floyd Landis, another ex-teammate.
After Landis admitted he and Armstrong used banned substances, Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title. Armstrong continues to deny the mounting accusations. He maintains he has passed every one of nearly 500 drug tests.
Sports columnist Kirk Bohls writes about Armstrong's travails for the Austin American-Statesman. Bohls says, with the recent allegations, local opinions about the cycling legend may have reached a tipping point.
Mr. KIRK BOHLS (Sports Columnist, Austin American-Statesman): Most of the email and the response that I've received has been very negative toward Lance Armstrong. And I wonder if some of the tide may have turned against him.
BURNETT: The Lance Armstrong Foundation is housed in a modern, architecturally inviting building in east Austin. Since Armstrong started the foundation in 1997, it has raised $400 million and helped nearly three million people with cancer.
After the news broke last week, Armstrong tweeted: For those who think we'll be distracted, think again. We're here to serve.
The foundation's communications director, Katherine McLane, echoed the same line, sidestepping the chairman's deepening imbroglio.
Ms. KATHERINE McLANE (Communications Director, Lance Armstrong Foundation): What happens in the cycling world happens in the cycling world. We're a nonprofit organization focused on serving people who are in the fight of their lives. And that's what we do every single day. We don't allow ourselves to be distracted. We don't have that luxury.
BURNETT: Nike, a major donor to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, released a statement earlier this week that says its relationship with Armstrong remains as strong as ever and the company, like the cyclist, does not condone banned drugs.
John Burnett, NPR News, Austin.
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