I've never been a fan of Lance Armstrong. I know, I know, blasphemy. I read an interview with him, maybe it was in Outside magazine, back in the early 90's and I thought man what an arrogant, obnoxious little asshat. In fact he was quite proud of his arrogance, said it was what was going to make him such a great cyclist. Well, that and the EPO. Oops, did I say that out loud? Anyway, I felt bad when I found out that he had cancer and was glad when he pulled through but could have cared less about all his subsequent Tour Day France wins. And the way he used/uses cancer and other cancer victims and survivors to stroke his ego makes my stomach hurt. Yes, I know, I'm clearly in the minority here. I was one of the few who celebrated news of his retirement and now is disappointed to hear of his return to pro cycling. Apparently though I'm not the only one. Jonny sent me this great quote by Paul Kimmage from a radio interview:
"My reaction … I’m reminded of that memorable scene in The Shawshank Redemption, where Andy crawled through a giant pipe of steaming excrement in order to escape to freedom. That’s how I feel right now about Armstrong’s come back. I feel like we’ve been dragged through this pile of steaming excrement. And the enthusiasm that I had built up about the sport in the last couple of years has been all but completely wiped out in the last couple of hours.
Let’s turn the clock back to Armstrong’s last apparition in the sport. The Tour de France 2005. He’s standing on the podium. And he makes this big impassioned speech. Which is basically saying ‘The last thing I’ll say to the people who don’t believe in cycling, the cynics, the sceptics: I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry you can’t dream big. I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles.’ That was 2005, his last ride in the the Tour de France. And the people flanking him on that podium were Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich [For those of you unfamiliar with the cycling world, these are 2 top cyclists who were eventually busted for doping]. And a month after that race ended the French newspaper L’Equipe reported that in his first winning Tour de France, in 1999, Armstrong had tested positive for EPO. Six separate samples taken during that race revealed positive tests for EPO.
This return, he wants us to believe that it’s all about saving the world from cancer. That’s complete bullshit. It’s about revenge It’s about ego. It’s about Lance Armstrong. I think he’s trying to rewrite his exit from the sport. He’s sat back and he’s watched the last two years and he cannot stand the idea that there are clean cyclists now that will overtake his legacy and buy the memory of all the crap that he put the sport through.
When I heard it being mooted first that he was coming back, I thought well that’s fine, because the first thing ASO are going to say is ‘sorry Lance, we’ve seen your results from the 1999 tests , you’re not coming back.’ I expected a similar statement from Pat McQuaid. What’s happened instead is that Christian Prudhomme has said ‘yes, you can come back, no problem.’ And Pat McQiad has said ‘I really admire this man, he’s a tremendous ambassador for cycling.’ What we’re getting here is the corporate dollars and the money that’s going to accompany this guy back into the game. The money that’s going to bring for Nike, one of the big sponsors of the Tour. And for the UCI, who have been experiencing some serious problems in the last couple of years.
Much as you want to say the sport has changed, as quickly as they can change their own opinions – McQuaid, who says one thing in private and quite the opposite in public, and Prudhomme – if they can change so quickly then I’m sorry, it’s really very, very difficult to have any optimism with regard to Armstrong and the way the sport was moving forward. For me, if he comes back next year, the sport takes two steps back.
I spent the whole Tour this year with Slipstream, the Garmin team. That wasn’t by accident. I chose that team deliberately, because of what they were saying about the sport and the message they were putting out. But also the fact that so many of that team had raced with Armstrong during his best years and knew exactly what he got up to. And the stuff that I learnt on that Tour about him and what he was really like was absolutely shocking, really shocking.
What’s going to happen now is he comes back and everybody’s going to wave their hands in the air and give him a big clap. And all the guys who really know what he’s about are going to feel so utterly and totally depressed. And I’m talking about Jonathan Vuaghthers, who raced with Armstrong that first winning Tour and who doped. And if you look at that Tour, Armstrong’s first win, there were seven Americans on that team. Frankie Andreu has said he used EPO. Tyler Hamilton has been done for [blood doping]. George Hincapie was exposed as a doper by Emma O’Reilly, the team soigneur. Christian Vand Velde and Jonathan Vaughters … both are members of Slipstream and would promote the notion that this was not a clean team by any means. When you look at that and what Armstrong’s done and how he’s seemingly got away with it, it just makes his come back very hard to stomach.
Astana’s the absolute perfect team for him. He’d be renewing his old acquaintance with Bruyneel, who wanted to hire Basso last year. Will he be renewing his old acquaintance with Ferrari, the famous doctor? Will Bruyneel be taking pictures of the questioning journalists and pinning them on the side of his bus?
When Armstrong talks about transparency, this is the greatest laugh. When he talks about embracing this new transparency … I’m really looking forward to that. I’m really looking forward to my first interview request with him and seeing how that comes back. Because that would really make it interesting.
This guy, any other way but his bullying and intimidation wrapped up in this great cloak, the great cancer martyr … this is what he hides behind all the time. The great man who conquered cancer. Well he is the cancer in this sport. And for two years this sport has been in remission. And now the cancer’s back."
I'm not really sure what I can add to that, just glad someone of note said it and that I'm not the only one who thinks he's full of it. The only shining light here is that maybe, just maybe he'll slip up and get busted for doping while in the spotlight. Otherwise, like Kimmage says the sport of professional cycling takes 2 steps back.