Armstrong backers say cycling legend is victim of 'witch hunt'

Lance Armstrong

Credit: Getty Images

Lance Armstrong celebrates as he wins stage 17 of the 2004 Tour de France. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)




Posted on August 24, 2012 at 5:51 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 24 at 8:29 PM

The ride is over for Texas native Lance Armstrong.

Many believe his legacy has been erased after losing his seven Tour de France titles on Friday. He was also banned from the sport.

Armstrong said "enough is enough," worn out after years of battling against allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Armstrong not only used drugs himself, but also ran a complex doping ring that involved many of his teammates.

In Wichita Falls, the talk at one of the nation's largest cycling events is all about Armstrong. One of Armstrong's mentors, Jim Hoyt, owns the Richardson Bike Mart and is in Wichita Falls for the Hotter'N Hell 100 race. Hoyt said he still believes Armstrong never cheated.

Hoyt gave Armstrong his start in bicycle racing, mentoring him as a teenager. The Plano East High School student competed on the Bike Mart's Matrix racing team.

"As far as I'm concerned, he's as innocent as they come," Hoyt saud. "I believe in him, and I've always believed in him — no matter what."

Hoyt went to France to witness all seven of Armstrong's Tour victories. He said he wishes Armstrong wouldn't give up his fight against the U.S. Anti-Doping agency.

"Everybody knows who won those Tours," Hoyt said. "I don't think there has been any tarnish. It's been a witch hunt from the start."

Sam Montag raced on the Bike Mart team with Armstrong. "It breaks my heart that all this is going on — especially with all the other things like Livestrong and cancer and people involved with all that," Montag said. "It just makes it tough."

Cyclists across the nation are in Wichita Falls this weekend for the annual event. Many of them are Armstrong fans, and many of them remain steadfast in their support of him.

"And if everybody wants to finally say he's guilty, they'll say that," said Ron Singleton. "But who's saying it? Not his fans."

Cyclist Bryan Orms agreed. "Whatever happened to 'Innocent until proven guilty?' He still passed over 500 drug tests. He's never been proven guilty. And they're still hunting him," Orms said. "I think that's wrong."

Jim Hoyt said he plans on calling Armstrong and will tell him the same advice he gave him 25 years ago: "Never give up."