The Last of Lance

The Lance Armstrong Fan Club writes to the US Anti-Doping Agency to protest its witch hunt.

Lance Armstrong has announced that he will no longer fight doping allegations, meaning that the Anti-US Doping Agency will effectively ban him from cycling and strip him of his titles. “If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and — once and for all — put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance,” Armstrong said in a statement. “But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair.”

It’s a shrewd move. Now Armstrong fans and admirers who refuse to acknowledge what is overwhelmingly likely bordering on certain—that he is a cheat, a liar and a fraud—can argue that poor Lance is a victim, and never was “proven guilty.” Of course, poor Lance has made millions of dollars and lived the life of a celebrity and hero for more than a decade, and he not going to forfeit any of that, or his freedom, no matter what rational people think of him. Like Barry Bonds, baseball’s most successful steroid cheat, he pulled it off, exploiting his sport, deceiving the public and taking advantage of a “look the other way” culture that corrupted bicycle racing even more thoroughly than steroids corrupted baseball. Continue reading

Armstrong’s Unmasking: Better Late Than Never

Don’t worry, Barry; Lance should be joining you soon.

Well, I guess I  have to hand it to Lance Armstrong, a bit like Ozzie Guillen when he praised Fidel Castro for surviving his dictatorship against all odds. The evidence, circumstantial and otherwise, that Armstrong is a  prohibited drug cheater ( like most successful cyclists) has been mounting for over a decade, and yet he has managed to hold on to much of his prestige and iconic status. Meanwhile, retired baseball slugger Barry Bonds has been reviled, condemned, prosecuted and vilified, by me among many others, for presumed illicit performing enhancing drug use in his sport that is backed by very similar kinds of evidence that  incriminate Armstrong. Yet while Bonds faces the humiliation of being rejected for election to baseball’s Hall of Fame next year when he becomes eligible, despite being the sport’s all-time career home run leader, Armstrong was preparing to race again to cheering throngs  in an upcoming iron man triathlon.

Then came the news, yesterday, that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has brought formal doping charges against him.  No one should underestimate Armstrong’s skill in wiggling off the hook, but this really should settle the issue of whether he is a hero or a manipulative charlatan. He is the latter. Whether he was a good but weak man trapped in a lie, or a sociopathic con man and cheat can be investigated by biographers and sportswriter, and psychologists. The harm that will be done when his false heroism is irrefutably exposed, however, will be the same no matter how Armstrong came about causing it.  His sport will be permanently tarnished beyond recovery. Scores of children and teens will be disillusioned, betrayed into a cynicism about role models and human nature that should only descend later in life. Worst of all,. his example will stand for some as proof that cheating pays. Armstrong, whatever happens to him, will be rich, like Barry Bonds, even if he is disgraced. He will, as my father liked to say, cry all the way to the bank. Continue reading

No Excuses and No Mercy For Lance Armstrong

Sorry, Lance…good guys don’t cheat.

Back when Barry Bonds was still playing baseball, a sportswriter mused about why it was that everyone assumed  Bonds was a performance-enhancing drug cheater despite his protestations to the contrary, while most Americans and sports journalists brushed away similar allegations regarding Lance Armstrong. Both competed in sports with acknowledged steroid abuse problems; indeed, the problem in bicycle racing was presumed to be more pervasive than in baseball. (A few years later, with the banning of multiple Tour winners, the presumption became a certainty.) Both athletes had improbable late career improvements in their performance to reach previously unimaginable dominance in their respective sports. Both had to explain or deflect multiple credible accusations of cheating and circumstantial evidence that suggested that they were doping. Both claimed they had never failed drug tests, and there were good reasons to doubt the denials.

So why was Bonds a villain by consensus and Lance an untouchable hero? The sportswriter explored many theories (Apologies: I cannot locate the article. If someone can, please send it), among them the greater popularity of baseball over cycling, Bond’s startling physical transformation into a behemoth while Armstrong remained cyclist-sinewy,  Armstrong’s inspiring story as a cancer survivor, Armstrong’s philanthropic work,and the fact that Bonds, unlike Armstrong, was black. The biggest difference, however, and to the writer the key one, was that Armstrong acted the role of a hero, while Bonds refused to. Armstrong was friendly and accommodating, while Bonds was angry, intimidating and antagonistic. Armstrong seemed like someone who played by the rules, and who lived his ethical values. Bonds seemed like a rebel, one who wouldn’t hesitate to break the rules for his own benefit. In short, the public wanted Armstrong to be the hero he seemed to be, so they ignored the evidence linking him to performance-enhancing drugs.

After last Sunday, the disparate public perception of Bonds and Armstrong, always illogical, became unsustainable. Continue reading