The saddest kind of cheating of all
So many people have a right to feel cheated by Lance Armstrong.
Nearly three years ago, as a then-squeaky clean Tiger Woods wowed crowds at the Australian Masters, I wrote a newspaper piece pondering who provided more "bang for the buck" - the world's best golfer or cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong was the South Australian government's $2 million star attraction for the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, where I was living at the time.
Woods was getting a $3.3 million appearance fee to go to Victoria and take home the lion's share of the $1 million prize money offered at the Masters.
You don't have to be Einstein to appreciate the irony of a "bang for buck" headline in a story about Woods.
Within weeks of me writing that, Tiger's now ex-wife had reportedly wielded a nine-iron with far more accuracy and ferocity than White or Wrong ever could and the golfer's multiple marital infidelities were very publicly uncovered.
A form slump of, by Tiger's standards, epic proportions ensued, from which you could argue that he's never fully recovered.
Armstrong's fall from grace has been longer in the making. But, watching Union Cycliste Internationale president Pat McQuaid announce sanctions against Armstrong last night, I realised it was even more complete than that of Woods.
In fact, it might just be the biggest sporting fall from grace of all time.
Armstrong wasn't just being banned from competing from here on. Here was the head of cycling's biggest body, declaring that the man who should be the beacon of all accomplishments in the sport be wiped from its history books all together.
All high-profile sport stars, like it or not, are role models. Fortunately most aren't role models in the way that they might be afraid they are.
Australian men might dream of playing football like Chris Judd but we don't want to be him personally - other than getting a $250,000 a year job with a cardboard company or taking Bec Twigley to the Brownlows in that red dress.
We might want to score goals like Wayne Rooney but even those of us who are follicly challenged aren't interested in having the rug that's currently atop his scone.
The problem with Lance Armstrong is that there has never been that division of Lance Armstrong the cyclist and Lance Armstrong the human being.
Lance Armstrong the (former) seven-time Tour de France winner is the same Lance Armstrong who beat cancer. And vice versa. He built an entire charity organisation around it.
The other issue with Armstrong has been accessibility to the myth.
In Adelaide, thousands of amateur cyclists, turned out for "open rides" with Armstrong in the lead-up to the Tour Down Under.
Weekend warriors across the country - hell, across the world - could whack on a yellow rubber wristband, squeeze into some ill-advised lycra, pedal up the nearest hill and then clip-clop into their local coffee shop in the knowledge they'd experienced just a little of the Armstrong mystique.
As a point of comparison, try finding a way to play a round of golf with Woods.
Or, put on a red shirt on a Sunday, go down to your nearest public course, take 10 shots on a par four and then see how much you feel like Tiger.
Tiger cheated on his wife and his family. An argument could be built that hurting those closest to you is the worst kind of cheating of all.
But the scale of Armstrong's cheating has now been exposed to be of such a scale that it almost defies belief (particularly that he could have got away with it for so long).
He has cheated his sport. He has cheated his fans. He has cheated those who went and bought a bike and started cycling out of sheer Armstrong inspiration (although, if they keep at it, they'll be better for it - proof that good comes of everything).
He has cheated anyone who ever donated to the LIVESTRONG under the assumption that they were joining the crusade of the greatest cyclist of all time (although, again, considerable benefits will come from it).
There are those who will refuse to believe that Armstrong is guilty of anything and it's hard not to feel that those folks have been cheated most of all.
Because, right now, it's easier to make a case that man didn't land on the moon than for Armstrong not having taken performance enhancing substances.
There's still a really nice story to be told in Armstrong - that of a miracle cancer survivor - but it's no longer a sporting fairytale.
And the thing about sporting fairytales is that they rely on a belief that achievements are about natural talent and hard work.
We want/need to believe that Black Caviar's brilliance comes without unfair assistance. We want/need to believe Usain Bolt runs 100 metres in 9.58 seconds because he is an athletic freak.
With Lance Armstrong, we've lost that belief.
Even for someone like this columnist, who could never be mistaken as a cycling nut, that's a sad state of affairs.