Saturday, 19 January 2013

Armstrong Revisited

Revelations or confirmation of that which we already were 99% sure of Mr Armstrong raised his ugly head again this week to a bandwagon of publicity but with the majority shouting out that he should not be forgiven and that he was not contrite enough.  I spent an hour and forty five minutes watching the interviews (thank God for Sky+ to get rid of the adverts) and was absorbed by it.  Like a great many people I had been taken in by Mr Armstrong and the story of his survival from cancer and miraculous rise to the pinnacle of the Tour de France several times no less.  I have many thoughts going on in my head regarding the subject and will try and share some the best I can with you.

The first thing that struck me about the interviews was the number of times I had a feeling that Mr Armstrong was trying not to break out into a wry smile.  He answered the questions very honestly that were put to him but he didn’t seem genuinely concerned.  Another point which I scoffed at was that he was unaware of what a big deal he was.  How can someone with a massive foundation winning a marquee sporting event each year not have a clue that they are ‘big’? 

I am I have to say a little sympathetic in some respects.  A majority of the competitors at the time were doing a cocktail of drugs and there are a few things that rangle with me still in that Armstrong has been made a scapegoat for the generation and that if it wasn’t him it would have been someone else.  I am not trying to justify it the whole era was a farcical mess which will have a massive impact on cycling for years to come.  I don’t think it helps that certain individuals were welcomed back with open arms to compete again after a few months or years bans.  In my opinion once you are banned you should not be allowed to compete again within elite sport.  This is regardless of peer pressure etc being put on people to take drugs in the first place.  The other issue that I have is that Mr Armstrong did create an organisation to help people with cancer to cope.  This has undoubtedly helped a large number of people over the years and will hopefully continue to.  It would be a huge shame for this organisation to fail on the back of one man’s obvious and gross flaws.  If there is one thing that he has done right though it is Livestrong.

Having read a number of witness accounts, the USADA report and a platitude of column inches over the past few months along with a number of programmes and internet videos I am now long since over my hero worship of Mr Armstrong.  I don’t think Mr Armstrong can be given a second chance.  He ruined too many people’s reputations, lied for too long and was nonchalant about the fact he had doped in the context of the racing believing still he was on a level playing field.  After this I do not want to hear his name for a long time although I fear there is more to come.

I want to move on swiftly from this and concentrate on the sport I now know and love.  Geraint Thomas summed it up perfectly for me in an interview with the BBC
"I don't think he deserves any more air time than what he's (Armstrong) got.
"We can all just finally move on and learn from it, and stop talking about him and actually talk about what's happening today
"Talk about the future, the clean riders that are doing everything that they can. That's what it's all about."


  1. Maybe it's time to top pretending that drugs are not prevalent in sport and just be open about their widespread use. I think that what makes people uneasy is the question of legality rather than any supposed dangers. Let's face it - they are dangerous when given in an unsupervised manner (the same goes for most medicines!). Under medical direction, as given to most sports stars(& if you doubt that you are either totally misguided or extremely naive) these drugs are safe and effective.
    Most performance enhancing drugs were developed for medical use - specially for burns patients or those who had suffered similar medical trauma. It was when people started noticing that they had other positive effects that they started using them for sporting prowess and the legal status of many of these only changed within our lifetimes.
    Another misconception is that these drugs will allow an "average" person to become supermen or somehow better than average & therefore it is cheating. Sorry to shatter your illusions but steroids et al don't work in that manner. Genetically gifted individuals will always excel in their chosen areas and no amount of drugs given to an average person will allow them to match up to tehse gifted individuals. Africans would still be dominant in distance running events whereas Russians, for example, would not! A Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Andy Murray would still be among the best at their game.
    As for the side effects if the legality issue was removed then the area would be more open to research and safer alternatives. The larger, reputable companies (Pfizer, Unilever etc) would enter and real research could take place. This would remove some of the dangers especially since you wouldn't have to rely on products of dubious origin, which could be fake or produced in some filthy backwater with contaminated substances.
    The whole issue could be regulated in a similar manner to medicines whereby you would need a prescription and/or take them under a doctor's supervision. Of course mis-use will still tke place but that is up to the individual concerned.
    Just some food for thought.

  2. Hi Faheem

    Thanks for taking the time to write such an interesting reply. Definately food for thought. So many different camps of thinking on this one!