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Old 08-27-2012, 03:15 PM   #242
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,563

Good article here (though I was never a fan of Armstrong, but I may still become one if this disgusting spectacle continues long enough)

[...] As for me I find the denouement of this whole sorry tale rather disquieting. I was a Lance fan for years, wanting very much to believe the fairytale success story of the young man who defied life threatening cancer to come back and win the world’s toughest sporting contest seven times on the trot. At the time, back then, the rumours of cheating seemed more the product of jealousy and an iconoclastic delight in tearing down, or trying to, a heartwarming success story. I liked his ghost-written book It’s Not About The Bike and if his character came across as rather *****ly, he also came across as driven, intensely focussed and fanatically competitive. I don’t think even his bitterest detractors would say he didn’t train incredibly hard or that he didn’t have an immense native talent (however he nurtured it).

In that regard he seemed believable – an exceptional athlete, and an exceptional man, if not exactly a likable one. In the light of subsequent events, and the parade of confessions, investigations and aired dirty laundry we’ve all been treated to over the past couple of years, I am no longer a believer. There is just too much dirt flying around, too many of Lance’s old team mates have been busted and/or ‘fessed up for me to believe he alone raced clean all those years – and not only raced clean but was blithely unaware of all the cheating, doping and shooting-up going on around him. I just don’t see Lance as that much of an ingénue.

So he played dirty – in a dirty game where it seems as though everybody was playing dirty. Do I care? Well, no, not exactly, not anymore, and not because I think his good works should outweigh the bad or that cheating doesn’t matter. It does. Or did. But seriously, where do you draw the line? And more importantly, when? The man has retired; he is no longer in the peloton. The most recent of the Tour victories he has forfeited occurred in 2005, seven years ago; the oldest dates back thirteen years, to 1999. That’s ancient history in an age of Twitter. And to whom do you award these vacated wins? Jan Ullrich? A list of Tour winners and podium finishers from 1996 to 2010 makes for some pretty dispiriting reading. That was a very dirty age.

But was it any dirtier, one wonders, than the ages that preceded it? Lying, cheating and drug use at the Tour have been around for decades, almost from its inception, with quite a few former champions having (once safely in retirement) acknowledged using performance enhancing drugs during their careers. Are the authorities now going to open investigations into the golden eras of Merckx and Anquetil? And what of Tommy Simpson? He’s actually kind of a hero these days – his Byronic death on Mt Ventoux given a more wholesome patina by the passage of time so that he is seen today more as swashbuckling than dirty, in the same way, I suppose, that the old-time Pirates of the Caribbean are seen as romantic and colourful, while the modern versions lurking off the coast of Somalia are thoroughly reviled.

I don’t have any answers, nor even suggestions or opinions that I wouldn’t find myself contradicting in the very next breath. I do believe these things needed to be sorted at the time, not years later. I am not trying to be an apologist for Lance, or for any of them, but there is something in the note of vindictive self-righteousness about all this and a sense of burning in effigy that I find unsettling, and does indeed suggest a witch hunt. Bagging Lance is not the same thing as stamping out original sin.
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