Last year I wrote an article in defence of Lance Armstrong. Granted this was prior to the evidence collected on him being made public, but I will still readily admit that I was wrong to defend him and fall on my sword of my own making. Yet, I will still defend my judgement to publish that article as still believe with the marrow of my being that an individual, regardless of fame or notoriety deserves a free and fair hearing, which Lance was not getting. Too many were swift to condemn him without seeing a shred of evidence. I am not defending what he did, but there was a distinct amount of schadenfreude about the destruction of one of the most successful sportsmen in history, and a hero to many, myself included.
Despite my initial defence of Lance, I personally feel betrayed by the man. Not for what he did, for what he put in his own body. Yes, he disgraced cycling, and made those seven Tour de France impossible to win for all those who rode clean, but I hope with the likes of Hoy, Pendleton, Cooke and Wiggins being such well know and public faces, that they can act as a counterfoil to Armstrong's affects on cycling. It is the fact that he, firstly, vehemently defined any doping and went after anyone who questioned it like a rapid pit-bull. He brought (and won) a lawsuit against the Times after they alleged he doped knowing full well they were correct. There are many cases where journalists have complained of being bulled and harassed by not only Armstrong, but those close to him. Even worse, to me at least, is that I whilst I believe he is sorry, I do not believe he is truly sorry. I believe he is sorry he got caught, that it has cost him so much financially and I believe he consented to the Oprah interview to spare his children and family any more anguish.
Yet, I also think he does not recognise what he did was wrong. He is so competitive and driven, so consumed with being champion and perpetuating his own legacy and dominance, he felt that the use of EPO and transfusions was much akin to say, reducing the weight of his wheels or changing his gearing on his bike. It was merely an edge for him. Oddly, I can sympathise with him. I am currently training for the 2013 London Marathon, and have competed for over half a decade at competitive running, I realise how easy it is to become fixated by one event and let it define you. He is not Lance Armstrong, Texan but Lance Armstrong, (former) Tour de France winner. I can understand how he wants to carve a place for himself in history, and how his humble beginnings drive him. The only thing between me and him is ethics. I am disgusted and sickened by what he did, and I can never defend him again, but too many of us make him out to be superhuman, yet all he was a flawed person like all of us and was blinded by his need to win. I have been offered, and tempted by, performance enhancing drugs in gym locker rooms, but I know that could never take them, not just because of what they could do my body and mind. It is the fact that any victory would be hollow. Completing the marathon will leave me empty and unfulfilled if done whilst doping. Perhaps it was this void that drove Lance to confess? We may never know.
My hope now is that Lance now fades from the spotlight, and does not attempt a comeback, even if that is just as a tri-athlete as has been suggested. This is because of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. As someone who has not only lost many to cancer, but who has had a scare after finding a lump that thankfully was malignant, I have a lot of time for the foundation, and all it does. I may be UK based, but its weight and resources in the USA mean that research carried out there could well save lives here. It will always be blotted by the yellow of Lance's jerseys and bracelets, but for many peoples sake I hope the world can divorce their view of Lance Armstrong the cyclist and of Lance as a cancer survivor.
As shown in the first Oprah interview, some still find inspiration in his story and it helps them through their struggle, regardless of what they think of his sport and of his doping, as shown by the mother whose child has leukaemia and was comforted by Lance's book. Like the book, I hope we can all remember that it is not all about the bike. He was a survivor before he was a cheat, and his brand and the fact he transcended the sport beyond those who follow the tour mean the foundation was thrust into a place of influence and has had much success. It would be a travesty if one man's flaws brought down an otherwise great, and definitely much needed organisation.