So he’s cheated. Lance has been caught – the big fish, the shark. All because the other sharks, pointed at him and said ‘he’s a shark.’ No matter the method, the truth is out, but why does it matter?
Why does it matter than a guy on a bike took some drugs? I have a friend who rides a bike and he takes drugs all the time. Doesn’t bother anybody, expect the neighbours sometimes, but that’s just the smell.
In the grand scheme of this whole sordid affair, my take might not mean anything, but I think with journalists salivating at an easy feast, it’s important to have some human perspective, so here goes.
In December 2004 my Dad told me he had cancer. Simple as that. I was in the middle of my University final year. This isn’t a sob story. We were the lucky ones; my Dad survived and I graduated. Just getting a chance to go to University means I’m privileged.
But cancer kills context as well as people, and at the time I felt like shit. Dads don’t get sick. They laugh at illness. I know most people have a ‘my Dad is hard’ story, but cancer was his first day off sick. Ever. Pretty remarkable considering he was just about to turn 50. Happy birthday – have cancer.
That’s where Lance came in. Here I was bitching about exams; he won the Tour De France. He stamped on cancer, dusted it up and threw it in the rubbish. When my Dad had his operation we both wore LiveStrong bands. We cried when we put them on. Well I did, he’s an old Yorkshireman – he nodded and said ‘thanks Son.’ His version of crying.
A year later I sat in a Doctors room hearing the words, “if you don’t have an orchiectomy I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have testicular cancer within 24 months.” I had the surgery; I got the nickname ‘The Russian.’ Bolokov. The piss taking helped. So did Lance.
Lance flipped the bird to cancer, and told everybody else to do the same. Just because he cheated afterwards, that will never change. An ESPN article had the following sentence. “The amoral celebrity who ‘beat’ cancer.”
He did beat it. And suggesting otherwise to further a story is a lie deliberately told. Ironically enough that’s just what Lance did.
Armstrong gave people strength and hope. I’m glad people haven’t stopped supporting LiveStrong. It might have been started by a cheat. No matter. Hilter built the autobahn; do we rip it up and make people walk?
I’m not writing to defend Armstrong though, he let me down. But do I regret defending him before? Not for one second. If I could go back to when people were saying he was a cheat before any evidence had come out, then I’d defend him all over again. Every person, no matter how abhorrent their actions, deserves the chance to be proven guilty. Otherwise, that way lynchmobs lie.
Every person who has used Armstrong as beacon will have their own reactions. Mine is disappointment. Disappointment that such a force as Armstrong’s will could have been used to fight cheating in cycling; instead he embraced it and made it more effective. Bradley Wiggins summed it up best ‘it’s like being told Santa isn’t real.’
Before I wrote this I had it in my head that he didn’t need to cheat, that cancer sufferers will have used him getting back to riding professionally as inspiration enough. But as the words come up on screen, is that really the case? No. Other people have fought back from where Lance was to get back to sport. John Hartson showed incredible spirit to beat cancer. Do we tweet #ShowHart? No, he’s a football pundit now, a good one and I’m very glad that he is. His story will inspire football fans, but has it travelled round the world and inspired billions?
That’s no excuse for Lance, just the sad reality. Reality is something that journalists need to keep in their heads right now. As they clamour for their pound of flesh, whilst also lecturing from moral high ground, they’ll do well to remember that this has given them enough copy for a lifetime. Even the journalists writing books like ‘LA Confidential’ have a made a mint they wouldn’t have if Lance was clean.
Somehow Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton et al are heroes. They stand to benefit financially for this whole affair. Some journalists speak of them in glowing terms, of showing ‘courage.’ Bullshit. They’re cheats, just like Lance, and manipulating the story to show them in any other light is lying. Lying to benefit the narrative. Just like Lance did.
People have suffered because of the actions of Lance, but that’s for the courts to deal with. Not journalists. Not the baying mob all saying ‘it’s not enough.’ You’re right; it isn’t enough, what would be?
For those of us duped by Armstrong, remember, just like a cheating partner, ultimately this is his sin, not our stupidity. We need to learn from this, move on and leave a cheat like Armstrong as a character in history.
I’ve moved on from Armstrong the man, a cheat, bully, liar … the list goes on. He joins a long list of people fallen from grace that I have no reason to waste my energy on.
Armstrong the myth though? He helped my Dad beat cancer, and that I will never forget.