By Darren Franich
May 23, 2011 at 05:45 PM EDT
Bernard Papon/AP Images

Last night’s 60 Minutes featured an in-depth piece about the federal investigation into Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner who stands accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. The most damning part of 60 Minutes‘ investigation was the interview with Tyler Hamilton, an Olympic gold medalist and former Armstrong teammate. Hamilton was direct in his accusations, claiming that Armstrong “took what we all took … There was EPO, there was testosterone. And I did see a blood transfusion.” Hamilton also alleges that Armstrong used EPO to prepare for the Tour in 1999, although he hedged a little: “I can’t say that he used it during the tour.”

I know what you’re thinking: If these allegations are true, then we have just received more evidence that there are no heroes left in this miserable modern American era. Our greatest athletes have turned out to be adulterers and ‘roided-up dope fiends; Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away; hey hey hey. (Armstrong has yet to respond to EW’s calls for comment.) But it’s worth pointing out that Hamilton isn’t just indicting Armstrong. He claims that the team’s management encouraged the doping. Given just how widespread performance-enhancing drug use was in the cycling world, it’s probably fairer to say that the entire system was broken in a million little ways by a million tiny sins.

Depending on how the federal probe turns out, we may very well reach a point in the near future when Armstrong’s reputation becomes completely inverted: Because he convinced us that he was a cancer-killing semi-messianic symbol of all that is good in humanity, there will be the natural instinct to turn him into an evil, grinning anti-Christ. But there are plenty of people who have been inspired by Armstrong. Perhaps this is just a good teaching moment, proof that we should be more skeptical of our icons, a healthy reminder that human life is extremely complex, so that some of our greatest heroes can do extremely terrible things (and vice versa). Or, I dunno, maybe it’s time for another media crucifixion. Check out the first part of the 60 Minutes report below:

Fellow human beings, what’s your reaction to Hamilton’s allegations?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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