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The New Arab Staff

Lance Armstrong leads bike ride through Beirut blast site to raise money for victims

Armstrong prepares for 'Bike for Beirut' with Lebanese sportsman Maxime Chaya (L) [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 October, 2020

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The disgraced sportsman has turned to charitable work, leading the 'Bike for Beirut' to raise money and awareness for organisations helping victims of the port explosion.
Former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong led a group of cyclists through the Lebanese capital on Sunday in a fundraising effort to mark the two-month anniversary of the devastating port explosion.

Armstrong, who was stripped of all his titles in 2012 following a doping scandal, took part in the "Bike for Beirut" along with dozens of other cyclists, in order to raise awareness and funds for organisations helping residents affected by the blast.

The 4 August blast saw at least 190 people killed and over 6,000 injured when some 3,000 tonnes of improperly stored ammonium nitrate exploded in the port.

The blast was one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, razing Beirut's port area and wreaking billions of dollars worth of damage across the capital.

"Today we're starting here, I guess not very far from the actual explosion site," Armstrong said outside the port. He added that the bike tour aimed to "try to bring some awareness to this community, to the people affected."

The group of cyclists then passed through the port , riding close to the huge crater where the ammonium nitrate had been stored.


From the port, they continued the tour around Beirut.

Among the four organisations the tour is raising money for are the Lebanese Red Cross and the charity group Offrjoie.

Later on Sunday, hundreds of people gathered near the port to mark the blast's two-month anniversary. At 6:07pm, the time when the explosion tore through the city, the crowd released hundreds of white balloons, each inscribed with a victim's name.

A group of relatives of the victims briefly blocked the main road next to the port, demanding that the results of the investigation be made public.

Armstrong built a world-wide following during his professional career winning races, including the the Tour de France seven times, and fighting cancer.

However, the cyclist underwent a spectacular fall from grace several years ago following revelations he habitually used performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong had already retired, but the confession shattered the legacy of one of the most iconic sports figures in the world.

More than two dozen people, mostly port and customs officials, have been detained so far in the investigations into the Beirut blast. The judge in charge of the investigation has questioned top security officials, former cabinet ministers and port employees.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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