Originally Posted by habacomike
Yea, he was nothing special in his early career. That's why he was smoking everybody in triathlons as a high schooler. And that's why he was recognized early as a phenomenal prospect for triathlon or cycling.
Get real. He is an anomaly. Whether he doped or not, the doping didn't make him what he is.
As a high schooler, he went from being a good swimmer but not a standout at a state level to, suddenly, smoking adults in triathlons on a national level. Since he was a distance swimmer, too, and not miscast as a sprinter, it is reasonable to ask how he went from not being a standout in the pool, against kids his own age, to all of a sudden being a standout on a national level against adults.
Likewise, while he was known for being a good runner as a triathlete, when he ran marathons a few years ago his times were very mediocre. Particularly when viewed as being times from someone with an elite VO2 max and LT, such as Armstrong, who also hadn't put on much weight and who said he had trained. His times did get a bit better after the first marathon, but basically they were times a middle-aged white collar worker could be reasonably proud of, but not too proud.
Even in egregious cases of doping, such as Michelle Smith, the Irish swimmer, the normal trajectory is that they go from being an elite athlete -- say 25th in the world, something like that -- to doping and all of a sudden being #1.
In Armstrong's case, there are essentially 3 sudden "blossomings" in his career -- that as a triathlete, then early on as a cyclist, then again beginning in '95 when, while working with Michele Ferrari, he retooled himself as a cyclist.
And when Armstrong was not in the same, uh, intense training mode -- when he retired from cycling and ran a few marathons -- he went back to being a good endurance athlete, but one who on the basis of his results had no chance of being an elite marathoner.
Getting "real" means looking at the real world. In the real world, those stark, sudden changes in results, don't just come out of the blue. Now, it also takes hard work. But, the baseline suggests he's someone who would be a good endurance athlete, regardless. And that's it.