I’ve been trying to weigh up the information, the speculation and my gut feelings over the years, and most recently in light of this years CBS program.
The question I ask myself is, are we the problem, do we want to see the amazing, the marvellous but forget that it’s not always achievable. As recently mentioned in Neil Browne’s post http://neilbrowne.com/2011/06/not-taking-down-my-armstrong-poster/ “This is my body. And I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it. Study it. Tweak it. Listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?” This is actually all true, he did work with a single minded goal of being on the top step in Paris every July. I will doff my cap to the fact he’s the most successful Tour de France winner, unleashing a new style of racing that has been (attempted) copied but in no way mastered. But the greatest, no as I truly think that accolade belongs to another.
He is often heralded with starting up the ‘arms race’ again when he came back to the Peloton. I don’t really believe that as the last four winners before Armstrong had been slowly turning up the heat in the pressure cooker. (for reference that is Pantani, Ulrich, Riis and Indurain) You could argue that the ambition, which is no uncertain words was fuelled by anger, led to the self realisation that if he was going to win he would need to turn up prepared. Whether he used them before or not is an area of various shades of grey, depending on whose commentary you’ve read.
Like all of those before (and after) him there have been days when the performance has transcended the transgression, yes for a moment I forgot and revelled in the spectacle. I’ll always remember Sestriere as being a pretty special day, there were others of course, and depending on how our opinion has changed we may have chosen to forget them.
So what makes Armstrong the Devil, while other dopers like Pantani, Coppi and Anquetil have an untarnished legend like status. I think for many it lays beyond the lie as many fans are realists and are aware that doping has gone on for as long as there has been competition. I’m not sure it’s even the mantra of ‘I’ve never tested positive for a banned substance‘ which has been the verbatim response for as long as the finger has been pointed his way. So, what is it then. I think it’s the industry that has risen up from his back from the dead recovery and the millions raised by Livestrong foundation.
The speculation that Lance and others are profiting financially from this is one reason many feel uncomfortable. I’m not sure we will ever truly know the truth, but with Lance’s departure from the Peloton it may just have a chance to rebuild itself, but unfortunately the demise of one of the biggest players will not stop this activity going on.