Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Pound Of Flesh And Then Some From Lance Armstrong

Dale Matson

I took this photograph of Lance at the Tour Of San Francisco

“With stunning swiftness, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said it will strip Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he dropped his fight against drug charges that threatened his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.”

“Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him. Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner.”

Trek offered a similar reason for cutting ties with Armstrong. “Trek is disappointed by the findings and conclusions in the USADA report regarding Lance Armstrong,” a statement from the bike company reads. “Given the determinations of the report, Trek today is terminating our long term relationship with Lance Armstrong.”

I sat around the coffee table with my cycling friends. I asked them what they thought about Lance Armstrong. Words like “grieved”, “duped”, and “heartsick” expressed the sentiments of our group. It was sadness and disappointment for men who saw Lance (and we called him “Lance”) as a gifted cyclist, a team player, a philanthropist, a cancer survivor and someone with an unsurpassed training ethic. We are all triathletes and were saddened that he would not be participating in Hawaii Ironman. He has been banned from more than just cycling events. We simply did not want the accusations to be true.

When I read his book, “It’s Not About The Bike: My Journey Back To Life” (2000), I was moved by how much suffering he experienced in his fight to survive. In addition to his physical struggles, his ego was diminished by experiences like children passing him while he rode his bike. Lance was a man who experienced the dark night of the soul. He did not inflict this on himself but he was stronger for it and claimed that he could NOT have won the Tour without experiencing the cancer.

Now we are looking at a downsizing once again. As I looked at a photograph of Lance from Outside Magazine (01-05-12), I saw a bare chested Lance with a Christian cross on a chain around his neck. If only the proximity of the cross represented his relationship to Christ. Unfortunately it is not a crucifix and the empty cross is more symbolic of a fallen Lance than a risen Christ. It is time for Lance to revisit the purpose of suffering because he is experiencing a crucifixion of sorts too.

“It’s not about money for me. It’s all about the faith that people have put in me over the years. All of that would be erased. So I don’t need it to say in a contract, you’re fired if you test positive. That’s not as important as losing the support of hundreds of millions of people.” 

The Sunday March 30 2014 Fresno Bee had an article by John Horn reviewing two recent books, Cycle of Lies: The Fall Of Lance Armstrong by Juliet Macur and Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell.

At some point I have to ask, “How much is too much?” Has any athlete caught doping paid any higher price than Lance? Only those who died from doping. I am not attempting to balance the positive things he has done against the negative. I am simply saying enough is enough. From this point the criticism is merely 'piling on'.  Now people are profiting from recounting the tragedy of a phoenix that rose from the ashes only to fall back to earth forever crippled by scandal. He has lost friends, sponsors, awards and honors. Even more he has lost the support and respect of millions of followers. He has been banned for life from competing in other sports than cycling.

Writers are too quick to go from calling him dishonest to an unredeemable villain. He has been given a life sentence. Those who are so quick to criticize Lance must look into their own hearts and see why it is necessary for them to continue to attack him.

Yes, Lance was dirty and denied being dirty. So were so many others during this time in many sports. Many of Lance’s teammates participated in the feeding frenzy that destroyed Lance who has paid, is paying and will continue to pay.

Lance, my friends and I forgive you. Our lives were enriched by the drama of your efforts and by our time on our bikes too. I will never forget the look you gave Jan Ullrich as you pulled away on L'Alped'Huez. Your fall doesn't invalidate our experiences.

Lance is still one of the greatest athletes that ever lived and many of those who criticize him never had a heart rate over 190, never spent one tenth of one percent of the time-on-seat on a bicycle. Those people never had to overcome cancer. I am disappointed about how things turned out but I am not disillusioned. Without the drugs he would still have been one of the best athletes that ever lived. He would have been less successful but he could have kept everything he won. It’s time to leave the man alone.

1 comment:

  1. There is an excellent interview (April 2014) with Lance in Outside Magazine.
    My initial impression was, Wow! There is such sadness in his eyes. He is grieving deeply. The only incongruous item was the all too easy interchange between the "I" and imperial "We".
    My advice for what it is worth Lance is to make peace with your father.