Sugary excerpt from the best article I've on Lance Armstrong's fall from grace written by Robert Weintraub:
Weintraub is right. Lance Armstrong became Lance Armstrong because he had beaten cancer. That exploit made people more willing to believe the improbable because he had had already done it once. It is also because he is a cancer survivor that Armstrong is going to make a comeback when he decides to talk. Cancer will always humanize him and make people empathize with him because he once faced death and triumphed.
Perhaps I’m wrong, but even as he was winning the Tours, I think most people suspected he had to, at the very least, be keeping up with the Joneses, PED-wise, and was mostly forgiven, pre facto, because unlike the other riders, Armstrong was lucky to be alive, much less racing. The image of his press conference where he shakily announced his diagnosis served as a public inoculation. (...) Ironically, the fact that Americans either didn’t want to know about the science behind Armstrong’s rise, or didn’t much care, enraged the European writers who took pretty much the same blasé attitude with virtually all other champion riders when it came to doping. It was as if the mere fact that an American—worse, a Texan, like George W. Bush—was winning France’s most cherished sporting title sent the local press into hypocritical hysteria.