Monday, August 27, 2012

My Thoughts on Lance Armstrong...

Lance Armstrong is a name which used to be synonymous with hope and courage, the guy who beat cancer and went on to dominate the toughest (and formerly unknown) sporting event in the world, the Tour de France.  His name is now well on the way to becoming synonymous with cheat and it will be forever tied to one of the greatest sports cheating scheme in history.  Not surprisingly, when someone has become such a heroic figure in the eyes of many, there are those who refuse to accept that Lance could have perpetrated such a magnificent fraud. It has, in a sense become a cult of Lance where his followers have and will continue to drink his cool aid.

Lance Armstrong is the only professional cyclist in modern history to become an American icon, to break out of the obscurity of cycling and cross over into popular culture. If I were to mention the name Greg Lemond, some would say they recognize the name, but few could tell you he was the first American to win the Tour de France or that he too came back from a near death experience to win France’s prestigious race. Mention Lance Armstrong however, and suddenly the Tour de France becomes the realm of everyday Americans. It is probably no coincidence that passions become so involved because Lance’s victories coincided with a period of time that French fries became freedom fries.  An American secured victory in Paris and with those victories, he not only secured his place in sports, he secured his spot as an American hero, at least for the time. Combine the patriots with the hearts of millions of cancer survivors as his story inspired hope in them, if he could beat cancer and return strong enough to defeat the toughest race in the world, perhaps they too could beat cancer! It is all these new fans that Lance has hoodwinked with his tired mantra of “I am the most tested athlete ever and I have never failed a drug test”; they form the body of the cult of Armstrong.

This is the biggest fallacy of the cult and the favorite thing Lance likes to say is “I have never failed a drug test”. Fact of the matter is that Lance Armstrong has indeed failed at least one drug test and only after the fact produced a doctor’s prescription. Additionally, there remain the accusations of at least one failed test covered up by the UCI, as well as evidence uncovered that linked EPO tainted blood to Lance Armstrong.  Anyone who has followed the news and recent history of drug cheats would know that the lack of a positive drug test only means they weren’t smart enough to not get caught. Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Jan Ulrich, many athletes never failed a drug test and yet were found guilty of doping.  However, all this is easily negated in the minds of the cult with two words, “French conspiracy”. 

Despite the hundreds of passed tests that Armstrong claims in his palmar├Ęs, the reported evidence that has been accumulated by the USADA is astounding.  At least ten eye witness accounts to doping or admissions of doping by Lance Armstrong. Now if you’re a member of the cult of Armstrong, you’ll first dismiss this by pointing out that the two most notorious of these witnesses, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton are admitted dopers and lied about their doping for years. What they overlook is this; Floyd and Tyler began lying (as did Lance Armstrong) the moment they first began using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to race. However, until the point they were under oath, there was no legal jeopardy to this deception. Sure they could be busted for doping and both were, but cheating in sports is nothing when compared to doing time in the slammer.   Then there are those reported ready to testify against Lance who haven’t been busted for doping. Riders like George Hincapie, one of the most respected members of the peloton and Lance Armstrong’s right hand man throughout his seven TDF wins. These witness accounts are the crux of USADA’s case against Lance Armstrong.

One of the biggest complaints I hear is “this all happened in the past, let’s move on” or “he wasn’t caught back then, how can they go after him now”.  But the fact of the matter is that USADA was given a pile of evidence and really had no option but to look into it. When presented with such damning evidence of one of the greatest doping frauds in American sports history, for them to ignore this would be a major failure in their duty.

I became a fan of cycling in 1988 and have followed the Tour de France and professional cycling since. I was fifteen when Greg Lemond stormed down the Champs Elysees to win the Tour by eight seconds. When Lance broke into the cycling world in the 90’s and began dominating; I quickly became a fan of his and was devastated when he was diagnosed with cancer.  He was a hero to me and soon a hero to millions worldwide.  This is probably why it bugs me so much to hear people and their defense of Lance. I knew who he was and was a fan, long before probably 99% of his current defenders are. I’ve followed his story since the early 90’s, have coffee table books on Lance, every TDF on DVD or video since 86’, and have TDF posters in my office and house. Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but most people currently defending him are misguided and are basing their defense of Lance on his talking points, they’ve unfortunately drunk the cool aid…

If you disagree with me, but have made it this far, I challenge you to read the information at the following link with an objective mind. It is the most powerful and through article I’ve read on the subject.


1 comment:

  1. I agree he doped, and have thought so almost from the start. I disagree with your characterization of Lance as a cheater.

    He's a product of a corrupt system with an institutionalized backstage history of champs who doped. All the leaders doped in Lance's era. Since Lance wanted to win, he had no choice--only dopers could win.

    As a devoted fan, you feel betrayed, but judging a person fairly means judging him/her in the appropriate context. If cheating was the norm, then how can you call it cheating?

    Imagine if all the Lance-era cyclists who doped came forward and admitted that they'd been doping for most of their careers. Would you still call Lance a cheat? Maybe you would, but I hope the image of that long spandex line of dopers puts his cheating in a more forgiving light for you.

    (None of the above remarks apply to baseball, however. I know that's inconsistent, but winning and culture are no excuses for skewing human performance statistics collection in a sport unchanged by technology for more than 100 years.)