So all weekend I’ve been getting people asking me about my opinion on Lance Armstrong. I’ve added bits and pieces to other peoples post, but not really commenting too much on how I feel about the guy. To sum it up, its way complicated and corrupt, like mafia corrupt with payoffs, intimidation and more. I’ve followed the guy since he was in his teens and seen him through so many up and downs, not just the post-cancer superhero years, but since he was a triathlete kid beating pro’s like Mark Allen. It almost feels like I know the guy personally.
I think a lot of people who aren’t cyclists (yes, all my friends that know me as that guy who eats, sleeps and drinks cycling) would expect me to be really bummed out about the whole situation, but honestly I am pretty detached. I think often times, we as human beings, tend to believe whatever side resonates with us the most and disregard whatever doesn’t correlate with it. Politics is a perfect example of this, you see people jumping on the bandwagon of one side or the other and ignoring all the bad parts. It’s been a while since I’ve come to the conclusion that Lance was doped to the hilt, so anything that has come out is no surprise at all to me. I am a person that believes that whatever happens to us, bad or good, we are complicit at some level. So, as much of a hero as he was to me, I believe that he created whatever fall from grace that is going on by playing the (doping) game.
But as I said on Friday, it is really cool to log onto facebook and see a pro cyclist being talked about by so many people who aren’t cyclists. For those who are more ‘casual observers’, this may surprise you but it seems to me the vast majority of hardcore cyclists/racers believe that he doped. They vary widely in opinion of him, but pretty much all believe he doped. To the casual observer, there are a ton of questions like “why don’t they just give it to the guy in second place” or “how could he pass 500 tests without failing”. If you’re a casual observer that is a big Lance fan, then don’t bother looking into it further, it’s a big rock with a dirty dirty underside, and you might just want to keep your image of him in your head, which is fine with me.
So if you’re one who does believe he is a doper, it gets even more complicated by your own values and beliefs. Do you value the inspiration he has given to both cyclists and cancer survivors or is it more important for him to go down to set an example for everyone else? Is it important for USADA to go after all people who doped (practically every successful pro cyclist before 2006) or should they cut deals for lesser targets to get the big fish? Did USADA have its chance to get him for 20 years and fail, therefore they should move on? Is it an even playing ground since everyone else he beat were dopers too? Did he still work his ass off harder than everyone else? Would I have doped if doing so was the only way for me to survive and make a paycheck for my family? Well there is so much to consider on both sides and it has been both entertaining and enlightening to see how people feel, the ones who believe he doped, because there is so much variance on how people ‘feel about it’.
Knowing a lot of these things doesn’t make me hate him, nor do I have the same love for him that I used to. To me it just ‘is what it is’. It’s weird to say that, as much as I love cycling and as much as I do not condone cheating. Maybe it’s just become like politics to me, just a bunch of drama that I have become immune to. Or maybe it’s just a slow bleed over the years as more and more information has come to light. In some ways he has done a lot of good for the cancer community and cycling, and in a lot of ways he has done the shadiest shit you can imagine. The one thing I don’t want to do is just believe or side with whatever is convenient for me (like that diet coke isn’t bad for you because there are a thousand tests that show its safe just because you like diet coke). I’ve also had to ask myself, am I being biased for knowing what I know and not hating him? Perhaps, but then again I don’t really believe it’s very easy to be unbiased in practically anything. But I still like to evaluate my thoughts and feelings, question myself and my beliefs.
It was awesome back in the day to have what now may be a ‘fairy tale’. So cool to watch a sport that you love grow to such popularity, with a spokesman that seemed to do and say everything right. Maybe I’m not that crushed because it always seemed to be so perfectly written, the comeback from cancer, the magical wedding, the kids, the epic wins that would be the cycling equivalent of a swashbuckling Andre Dumas story. But like his perfect wedding , maybe that was an analogy of things to come with his career. The ego got a hold of him, the rock star life style, the power, the ability to destroy his rivals on the bike and off. Maybe in the beginning, when it was more just a matter of ‘being part of the system’ some of this could be forgiven in terms of the bigger picture. But this might be a perfect example of when you lie, it leads to a bigger lie, x10000 in Lance’s case. As for all the dopers in general, I can’t really blame any of them for doing it without being put in that situation myself, it was just the way the system was. I knew it even not being a part of it. But when you lie over and over and over, no matter how noble your intentions are with cancer or whatever, it changes you as a person. It’s like the dark side and it consumes you.
So I guess Lance is still an inspiration to me, but these days it is on ‘what not to do’. I’m not perfect and I’ll f-up, just like anyone else does from time to time. But when I do f-up, I’ll try to rectify it by being honest to myself. Lance can lie to millions but in the end he is just lying to himself.
Update: October 02, 2004
I ended up reading “The Secret Race” by Tyler Hamilton, it is an excellent book and goes into extreme detail about both doping and Lance Armstrong. I was completely blown away and read the book in one day, my jaw was dropped after the first one and a half chapters. Everything that Tyler spoke of in this I could completely believe, and it further sunk my impression of Lance Armstrong. I could see the signs, but for some reason I probably didn’t listen to reason with him being such a hero to me. The way he treats his friends and discards them, the way he tried cheating some of his friends out of money, the way he manipulates things with his connectoins. Lance Armstrong, hero no more.
Go get this book, its a great read!