Usually this blog (when I update it 🙂 ) is about education matters and areas that I feel that deserve an audience. However, I am going to move off topic for an entry as it has been playing on my mind – Lance Armstrong.
Now, I am probably not going to say anything that hasn’t been said before about the ‘man’ but for you that know me, you may know that Lance Armstrong was a huge hero of mine. It was the determination, the fight, the battle against Cancer, the comeback (X2), the sheer will to win and, in all honesty, a bit of glory hunting. Before that it was Miguel Indurain, before that – watching Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche catapult Ireland to the heights of cycling domination. I only say this to, hopefully, show that I didn’t come to the game late!
My interest in cycling started with my Father getting involved in it – through his daily commute to work that turned into long hours away on a Sunday morning and through the long evenings of the summer. He would (and still does) disappear
wearing his long retired Combination Jersey from the Tour de France and yellow helmet – alien looking I thought – and return many hours later having conquered some area of South Down or Armagh. This blossomed into joining The Slieve Gullion Wheelers and participating in their usual club runs, etc. As I hit my Twenties and was casting around for something to help shed a bit of the University accumulated weight, I decided to give it a try and follow in his tyre tracks – and so it began…
So, with the history lesson over, we move to the impending interview that Lance Armstrong is going to give to Oprah Winfrey next week when, the speculation seems to suggest, he will ‘come clean’ about his alleged (watch for lawyers!) doping that won him 7 consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999 through to 2005. In the past few months we have had high profile books published by Tyler Hamilton and, more recently, by Sunday Times journalist David Walsh – where the doping and drug culture that was endemic in cycling has been laid bare.
Now, I bought into the whole Lance Armstrong story and whole-heartedly refused to believe that he would be stupid enough to go anywhere near drugs or doping after all that he had come through during his recovery from Testicular Cancer – as tellingly chronicled in ‘It’s Not About The Bike.’ I refused to listen to the dogged campaign of David Walsh, and others, who told us that it was too good to be true. After reading David Walsh’s superb account of his time trying to tell his story to an unbelieving world in ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ I have to apologise to him and all the others who fought to maintain their dignity while steadfastly holding their beliefs and evidence up like a match against a storm – always believing that one day they would be vindicated.
After USADA’s damning report – their day came and the rest of us had to take a long hard look in the mirror.
So, why is this important? Why should I blog about it? Who cares?
Simply, because as I ‘cycled’ up (I use that term lightly – struggled and wheezed, more like!) Alpe D’huez in 2011 to celebrate my 40th birthday in the path that my ‘hero’ Armstrong took wearing the replica of his Discovery kit – yellow jersey et al, I shouldn’t have had my sights set on the achievements of someone thousands of miles away and sitting back looking at the rest of us like ‘mugs.’ I should have set my sights on the man in front of me and what he had achieved. I had to, because my father led us up that mountain the whole way – dogged, determined and relishing the opportunity to take on the myth of Alpe d’Huez – and all I could do is sit in his wheel and watch and admire.
It shouldn’t have taken the inspiration of a banned, bullying, intimidating, career and reputation wrecking ‘athlete’ to get me up that mountain and around those 21 hairpin bends.
So when Lance Armstrong goes on US National TV and ‘bares his soul’ I won’t be watching. I won’t be listening. I won’t be lied to again – because you know that he won’t tell the whole truth. There’ll be some sense of justification for what happened in that era and trying to say it was the ‘culture’ and maybe it was – but, Lance, you kept on telling us that you wouldn’t and didn’t do it. Just remember, Oprah’s company is named HARPO – and you aren’t going to have the last laugh this time.
You kept on telling us – as metronomic as your pedal strokes when you where in the cycling.
We did it, though. We made it up the mountain. Will you?