We All Confess About Armstrong
Armstrong, who for more than a decade vehemently denied doping, would be willing to testify against the cycling union officials and his former team’s officials because he badly wants to compete in triathlons and running events again. Last fall, he was barred from many of those events because they are sanctioned by organizations that follow the World Anti-Doping Code, the rules under which he is serving his lifetime ban. Armstrong said that lifetime ban was unfair.
I first heard of Lance Armstrong when he came to race in the Tour de ‘Toona (TdT) around 1991. I had just moved to the area, and knew very little about the bike racing circuit. I watched some Tour de France and Olympic cycling on TV, but mostly just rode my own bike to get around.
But the Altoona Bike Club had organized weekend rides where twenty or thirty men and women wearing spandex and colorful shirts rode up and down hills for 30 or 40 miles, then stopped at a bakery. Some of them were very strong riders, others were simply enthusiastic, and one was my coworker and landlord, Ray. He was fifteen years older than me, and I could sort of keep up with him, and some other older guys, and they liked to tell the new guy stuff about the area, and advice about riding. On one ride, Ray started asking why everyone was so impressed with some guy from Texas named Lance Armstrong, because he hadn’t shown much at that year’s TdT. It was the first I’d heard of him.
I didn’t get to watch the TdT criterium that year, but of course Lance went on to become the most famous rider in the world. And now the most vilified.
I read a long mea culpa piece yesterday by a writer who feels that he had been “deluded” to believe Armstrong’s protestations of innocence. I defended Armstrong for a long time myself, not because I thought he was a great guy, but partially because it seemed that he was being hounded without much evidence and partially because I wanted to believe that someone could be that good without cheating. Well, now we have the evidence, and a confession, and frankly Armstrong and all of professional cycling are looking pretty bad.
So while I freely admit I was wrong about Armstrong, I expect to give other sports heroes and public figures the benefit of the doubt in the future — and be proven wrong.