I have been studying Lance Armstrong for a number of weeks. I was planning a piece tentatively entitled In Defense Of Lance Armstrong. I recently finished reading Lance Armstrong’s War by Daniel Coyle. I will today conclude watching all 7 of Armstrong’s Tour de France victories. That’s some 17 DVDs. I read the Playboy interview (June 2005). That’s the Q & A that begins with this from Armstrong: “All I can say is, thank God, we’re tested. When baseball players were charged with using steroids, what was their defense? Nothing. Whereas my defense is hundreds of drug controls, at races and everywhere else.” http://sherylcrow.99k.org/recensioni/lainterviewplayboy62005.htm
I wanted to believe Armstrong was not a doper. I am an American, I am a cyclist. But I realized – as I watched him win stage after stage after stage, yellow jersey after yellow jersey – he wasn’t a clean athlete, despite all the tests, lawsuits, protestations and, yes, lies. When Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett exclaim “incredible…unbelievable”, I found myself substituting “EPO… blood doping.” And it’s so very, very sad. Armstrong is a superior athlete. The man, then just a boy, was a national-caliber triathlete at the age of 15. A few years later he set a World Junior Time Trial record in his first TT. He trained harder than anybody else. He was more detailed, more focused, than anybody else. He put together the best teams. He had the best equipment. He once tossed aside a bike which had cost $250,000 to develop, because it wasn’t good enough. He was always looking for, in his own words, the SHIT THAT WILL KILL THEM. Too bad he decided the fecal matter included cheating. I am thinking he could’ve won biking clean, drug-free. Maybe not all seven TDFs, but a couple, at least. For sure.
As I watched Armstrong deny all the accusations for years, I am now struck by his prevarication. He attacked anybody who raised the specter of drugs, calling them “trolls.” His greatest skill it turns out is as a liar. I’m betting he could beat a polygraph easier than he climbed Alpe d’Huez.
I am struck that Nike can forgive adultery – see Tiger Woods – or animal abuse – Michael Vick – but is completely unwilling to forgive cheating in the sport. Almost makes sense to me. (Not to my wife.) Those Beaverton guys even put together a defense fund for Tonya Harding. But sex with Perkins’ waitresses or pugilistic pit bulls does not denigrate the game itself. And that’s exactly what Armstrong did.
True crime writer Ann Rule once told me that three out of every hundred men are sociopaths. Some of them become serial killers, but not all. I suspect some become pro athletes.