A (very) few words on Lance Armstrong

Posted: January 18, 2013 in Popular Culture et al, Sport
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Like many others, this is how I will choose to remember Lance Armstrong.

Like many others, this is how I will choose to remember Lance Armstrong.

Like everyone else, I have watched the train wreck that is Lance Armstrong’s last 18 months with horrified fascination and deep sadness.

First of all, let us hope that this doesn’t result in cycling being dropped off the map of world sports, for example at the Olympics. I think the dope testing regime in cycling now is so strict that the sport is probably as clean as it or any other sport is ever going to get.

What is interesting in this story (as told to Oprah Winfrey) is Armstrong’s insistence that he didn’t feel like he was cheating: he took growth hormone and so on to ensure a level playing field, implying everyone was taking it at the same time. Many of those guys are still racing … hmmm. Something may have to be done about that.

An event like no other on Earth, Le Tour enthralls, amazes, and entertains. Let us hope it emerges stronger, not weakened forever.

I really enjoy watching the Le Tour especially, and with what is asked of those guys it hardly seems credible that they don’t do something out of the ordinary to boost their oxygen carrying red blood cells.

And the list of what’s banned and what isn’t always strikes me as somewhat arbitrary.

Why is it – morally – OK to get a massage that gets extra oxygen to the weary muscle tissue but not to take a pill that has the same effect?

I am not making a judgement either way, I just find the whole controversy fascinating and confusing.

I also think the wilder criticism of Armstrong should be tempered by the fact that he is responsible for founding and promoting one of the biggest and most effective cancer charities in the world.

When the balance of his life is weighed, I suspect that will be his legacy, not this embarrassing and sorrowful end to his amazing career.

I wouldn't walk down it, let alone drive, let alone cycle down it at 80+ mph. No thank you. Nu-uh.

I wouldn’t walk down it, let alone drive, let alone cycle down it at 80+ mph. No thank you. Nu-uh.

Let us also say, it is highly unlikely that his doping enabled him to be as good as he was. Perhaps it enabled him to be a little better, or stay at the top a little longer.

But anyone who ever watched his steely determination in whatever terrain type in the Tour de France will know: he was a champion anyway.

He didn’t used to beat the other cyclists, he destroyed their determination to compete, he was all-conquering, he was the best that perhaps there ever was. Even Armstrong himself seems to understand this belatedly, with comments like “I didn’t know what I had”.

What a shame it all got ruined through a dreadful lapse in judgement. He has paid a high price. So has his sport.

  1. Colin Haycock says:

    Eloquently put Yolly


  2. Simon Ondaatje says:

    Those inside the sport say that he was the main advocate of drug abuse and encouraged others to take the performance enhancing substances to keep them’ inside the tent’. Moreover, there are others who insist that Armstrong was a bully and a thug, hence the almost fanatical devotion to bring him down. While I do agree that there are terrible inconsistencies in the so called drug laws, Armstrong systematically and knowingly broke the rules over many many years. Following on from this he then had the audacity to sue a newspaper (successfully) over a story which either accused or insinuated that Armstrong used drugs. I suspect that Armstrong is like most people, he has elements of both good and bad running in parrallel.

    The reality is that he didn’t kill anyone, so it intrigues me why people want him ‘hung, drawn and quartered ‘, to my mind he has been punished enough. Was he a champion ? I think it depends how you define it, but to my mind, he is every bit a champion as Ben Johnson is.


    • I don’t suppose we will ever know the whole truth. He was certainly a leading figure in the sport, and he has admitted having an arrogant and bullying personality, so I suspect this rumours are true.

      It certainly reveals what an astonishing athlete Matt Le Tissier was, being the greatest attacking midfielder of all time on a diet that consisted almost entirely of pie and chips.


    • jvdix says:

      I would say that suing a newspaper and winning, when the newspaper was truthful and you were lying, constitutes being a bully and a thug. At this point in history I consider harm to any newspaper a loss, but more importantly, what he did to a newspaper, he could do to individuals. Based on his being called a bully and a thug by insiders I would assume that’s what he did. You say he didn’t kill anyone. Does using the word “destroy” instead of “kill” affect your opinion?


      • Yes, well, I have also said he seems to have been a thoroughly unlikeable person. The lawyering of everyone in sight was necessary to sustain the lie, i suppose.

        I have also seen, however, with my own eyes, that living in the bubble of being an elite sportsperson warps one’s value system. For some people. The irony is I think he would have led his sport without the doping.


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