This blog is for detailing my writing. But occasionally a topic arises that demands attention. The last few weeks the subject of Lance Armstrong has once again come to the fore, mainly because the BBC thought him worthy of interview.
In it he suggests that maybe it is time he be allowed off the naughty step, that his punishments have been too harsh. Others, including a man who walked away from the systemic cheating of professional cycling, have voiced a similar idea. Well, here’s why they’re wrong.
For many years I was a staunch advocate of the innocence of Lance Armstrong. How could anyone have the terrible disease he did, then put his life and career at jeopardy by taking drugs? Not only that, while other accused riders prevaricated and dissembled (before being unmasked as cheats) Lance always stood right up, called his accusers out, and denied it – to the point of winning a court case for libel. No, for me, Lance Armstrong was the poster boy of triumph against adversity.
I discussed the case with my Brother-in-law, himself a keen cyclist, and now the owner of a bike shop. At that point I was swithering in my conviction. There were so many rumors and reports, so many in the pantheon of his peers had been discovered to be cheats. My B-i-L’s view was simple. This was the most tested cyclist on the planet. And if he was cheating, why risk taking on a libel lawsuit?
My faith returned to true north. Lance was clean.
It stayed that way right up until the USADA report. I read the entire thing, I read the references and the appendices (yeh, all of them). By the end I was utterly convinced of its conclusions. Others remained unconvinced, feeling it was a hatchet job to take down an all-American-hero. Well, even they had to agree its truth when Lance admitted guilt to Oprah, right there on television.
I remember a particularly odious tweet Lance put out around the time of the report. A picture of himself laying on a couch at home, his seven maillot jaune in glass frames hung on the walls around him and a tag line of something like ‘Just chilling.’
So, my firm belief in the innocence of Lance Armstrong was overturned. But it is not a mere sense of wounded sensibility that gives me the firm desire to never hear or see the man on a screen or radio ever again. I’ll be honest, I don’t want to see any one convicted of deliberately, knowingly, and illegally taking performance-enhancing drugs being allowed anywhere near the sport they defiled. But again, this is not the driver for my belief in Lance being permanently excluded from the media spotlight he seems to believe is his right.
It goes back to his stance when he was proclaiming his innocence. It goes to the way he trashed the lives of people who called him out for being the liar he was. People like Emma O’Reilly, David Walsh, and Betsy and Frankie Andreu. In calling these, and others, liars he induced courts to further enrich him by paying prize money his cheating made him ineligible for, and a payout for libel.
This, then, is the reason Lance Armstrong should forever be banished. He cheated, he lied about cheating, he made personal and vitriolic attacks against people who accused him of cheating, he sued people who accused him of cheating. Then, in his most recent interview, he says he’d probably cheat if put in the same situation.
This is a man who has a moral compass which points only to his own aggrandizement.
Now, let’s make some things clear. Livestrong (his charitable foundation) did a lot of good while LA was lying and cheating his way through his career. I’m sure he’s a personable fellow, and that some are proud to call him a friend. No person is all one shade. As despicable as his public actions have been, I’ll wager there are a myriad quiet private ones that show his decent side. It’s just a shame that they will forever be overshadowed by the lying, cheating, and defamation.
There has been an argument put forward that Lance, and other American cheats, have been dealt with more harshly by cycling authorities than Europeans. The argument goes that because some European cheats got to retain titles, so should Lance. No, the European cheats should lose their titles as well.
Back to Lance. Someone who has publicly confessed that they are a cheat, and that they would do so again, is not someone who should be involved in the sport, in any sport. Of course, politics is still open to him. No barriers that I can see. His arrogant duplicitness looks a natural fit.
Oh, by the way, of course I have a story that ties in with this. It goes back in time to when post-war amphetamines were first being experimented with in the peloton. It’s under one of my writing names and can be found at QuarterReads. The title is ‘A Cyclist’s Memoriam’ and you can read it for twenty-five cents.
(If anyone can point me to a link for a website or twitter feed for Betsy Andreu I’d be grateful)