Lance Armstrong Re-visited
I don’t think anyone could have been more disappointed in and more critical of Lance Armstrong in regards to his doping than I. I was ready to hang him from the yardarms for his transgressions. Today, during my ride, I began giving some serious thought to his situation, and it suddenly occurred to me that I have many traits in common with him. He obviously is an extremely driven, highly competitive, highly motivated, goal oriented, type “A” personality who was willing to work as hard as necessary to achieve his athletic goals. Failure, for that personality type, is simply not an option. Along the way, he encountered at least one major obstacle in the form of metastasized testicular cancer – something he overcame with grace and courage.
I think anyone with any knowledge of pro level cycling is aware that doping has been an issue for as long as there has been serious pro-level racing. If one reads accounts of racing well before the “Armstrong Era,” doping was commonplace – certainly in the European racing scene. I think by now, we all unfortunately realize that during Lance’s time, a racer simply was not going to make the top 10 in an event as demanding as the Tour de France riding clean. I believe with all my heart that none of the top racers did ride clean during that era.
Neither I, nor do I believe Armstrong, had a philosophy of winning at all costs, but if one is going to step to the line, we both believe that there is only one acceptable result – winning. I believe that we both also believe that winning means being on the top step of the podium, and my personal philosophy is that the guy on the second step of the podium is the first loser – a rather hardcore philosophy.
Lance returned to the pro peloton with the goal of being the best and accounts of his training certainly support an incredible work ethic to achieve that goal. His training was nothing less than prodigious. Now Lance, being a rather sharp individual, looked about, realized what was going on in the pro peloton, and like everything else he did, he probably found a better way to both dope and conceal said doping. He pursued both with the vigor and determination with which he pursued everything he did. He had incredible resources at his disposal to accomplish both missions.
Well, he finally got caught as had many top pros in his era, and the house of cards came tumbling down for him and so many other of his big-name contemporaries whom many fans thought to be clean riders (Hincapie, Zabriske, Leipheimer, et al). Is it my conclusion that it was okay to dope because everyone else was doing it? Absolutely not – it was outright cheating, dishonest and unfair to those riders (as few as there might have been) who competed and trained totally “clean.”
Assuming a clean peloton, would Lance Armstrong have won anyway? I believe that answer to be a resounding “yes!” His combination of gifted genetics, drive, work ethic and extreme competitiveness would have, in my opinion, put him at the top of a non-doping peloton.
I think I finally have a keener understanding of the man, and unlike my previous attitude towards him, I hope that he can get on with his life, have a chance to enjoy amateur sports, and has learned from his experiences. Good luck Lance, I personally am finally able to forgive you!