Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lance Armstong's Vertigo

"Hello, Hello
I'm at a place called Vertigo (Donde esta?)
It's everything I wish I didn't know." (U2 Vertigo)

Watching Lance's confessions on Oprah was far from pleasant. Here is a man who went from the highest of highs in terms of public acclaim, to someone who is now feeling a little untidy about being found out as a cheater, liar, and world class bully. I don't think that Lance was entirely truthful either during his conversations with Oprah as he seems more determined to keep his money and influence, as well as his ability to race triathlon and running events again, than totally coming clean. I think he is hoping he gave the public what it wanted and that this will all soon go away so he can race in the Ironman triathlon someday It appears he won't admit to doping after 2005, because the statue of limitations is 8 years, and that might conveniently allow him to compete in sports sooner rather than later. There is a lot more  that Armstrong needs to say, and maybe Oprah is not the one to say it all too. Co-doper, Tyler Hamilton, says this in a Wall Street Journal article:
Hamilton had sounded like this, too, when he first began confronting the truth. Hamilton's own admission had been much smaller in scale, but in the early stages it was also painful, awkward, halting, often incomplete. Coyle, his co-author, said that when he first began talking to Hamilton for "The Secret Race," Hamilton's answers came so slowly he could transcribe every word and comma easily, by hand, with no abbreviations.

"When I first started telling the truth, it came out like water trickling out of a faucet," Hamilton said.That's what Hamilton recognized in Armstrong—the slow, brutal process of a man coming to terms with his deception. Coyle recognized it, too. "People underestimate how difficult it is to tell the truth when you have lived a secret life for a long time," Coyle said. He compared the process to digging out a "buried city in the sand."

"This isn't like a syringe in a toilet stall," Coyle said. "This is a life. With people and all these plotlines and secrets that are interlocked and nested together."
There is a part of me that sees that blood doping in professional cycling and using illegal drugs as just being part of the norm today: a hidden business, but business as usual. Many, if not most, of the top professional cyclists have been implicated in drug scandals. Many young professional cyclists have been faced with a terrible decision: to dope or not. Some of these cyclists gave in and achieved fame and money, while others walked away with not so much as a consolation prize, but with their integrity  intact. As the devil tempts Jesus, after fasting for 40 days in the Wilderness, he lays out the power and riches that can be His, if He only gives in to his temptations (from the U2 Song "Vertigo"):
All of this can be yours
All of this can be yours
All of this can be yours
Just give me what I want-and no-one gets hurt.
Lance made it to the top of the world, but it was all a lie. It must have seemed easy to Lance, Tyler, Floyd, and all the others to give in and attain what they wanted, thinking that no one would get hurt. A lie is not an easy secret to hold. These, once mighty men, have been humbled, but as Tyler infers, Lance is only at the beginning of the process. I am not even sure that is is the doping that has finally caught up with Lance. I am of the opinion that it is his selfish bullying character that people, deep down, are most angry and intolerant about. Maybe his apologies will go over well with the Oprah crowd, but I think of all the people he has hurt with his attitude  words, and lawsuits. That is the Lance Armstrong that needs the most attention. Being contrite for your doping is one thing, but changing and fixing that Lance will probably be a bigger task than winning 7 Tour de France bicycle races.

Kathy LeMond, wife of 3 time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, says that Lance is more embarrassed and not truly sorry in a Sports Illustrated article. Greg LeMond said of the interview to VeloNews:
"I didn't see the need for redemption, the remorse of someone who is truly sorry,” LeMond said. “It was the ideal way to see the real Armstrong. It shed a light on him and I think people could see he is not remorseful.”
Betsy Andreu was not as forgiving as Tyler Hamilton in thinking that Lance's confession is a first step towards healing. In another Sports Illustrated article before the televised airing, she said:
SI: Is Armstrong's confession incomplete, in your eyes, unless he owns up to saying the things you heard him say in the hospital room?
Andreu: He has one chance to tell the whole truth. If he does not tell the whole truth, then I think he has completely shot his chance at redemption and forgiveness. And he is going to forever imprisoned.
In the Oprah interview, Lance still played the wise guy, when talking about Betsy, saying that he never called her "fat". He also refused to "go there" when talking about Lance's confession to using drugs which Betsy and her husband Frankie overheard while Lance was getting treatment for his cancer. Betsy was one of the first and fiercest whistle-blowers when it came to Lance and his drug use.

Another person that Lance Armstrong tried to ruin professionally and financially was his former Bike Mechanic, Mike Armstrong. He told Sports Illustrated:
SI: Lance has been calling some associates ostensibly to apologize. Has he called you? 
Anderson: No he hasn't. I don't think he will. Again, it won't be genuine.
 Frankie Andreu probably said it best when talking about Lance's confessions to Bicycling magazine:
Lance has always had a lot of control, power, and influence. During the investigations he lost much of that control as he scrambled around trying to figure out what was happening. He lost his power and influence once the USADA report came out. As only Lance is capable of, I feel he is now back in control. Lance waited until all the governing bodies had made their decisions regarding his sanctions and then he chose his next step. He waited for some time to pass and picked the time, place, and forum to come out publicly with his admission. Now he holds more information than everyone put together and his risk of falling from grace is removed. If anyone had something on Lance Armstrong to keep him quiet it’s worthless now. Lance has control now because he can decide what, when, and how to reveal information regarding his racing days and the doping that took place. Ultimately he can decide who he takes down with him.

In my eyes that makes him just as dangerous as before.
According to Frankie, it seems that the whole confession is just another slick choreographed move by Lance. I guess time will tell if anything that Lance Armstrong says is truly genuine. The quotes and articles above came from some of the people most publicly hurt by Lance Armstong, so maybe they have a bone or two to pick with him. What about those closest to him?

According to an article by Selena Roberts, for Sports on Earth even Lance's own mother was worried about Lance's own lack of empathy towards others back in 1994. This was before his first Tour de France win. Linda Armstrong sat down with Greg and Kathy LeMond:
...searching for advice and an answer to a disturbing question: Why didn’t her son feel anything? “She was worried that Lance didn’t care about anything but himself,” Kathy LeMond recalled. “His own mother.”
 Of course the stories come from the LeMonds, who lost out on millions of dollars when Lance got Trek to dump his bike line, but a story they tell of a young cocky Lance, details that peculiar side of Lance:
The LeMonds wanted to help. They could see Lance was slipping away from reality and into a place absent of empathy. Also in 1994, the same day that Greg had dropped out of the Tour de France before the mountain stage, Lance had placed a call to Kathy at the LeMond’s home in Belgium with a taunting, kick-the-champ-to-the-curb request. “It was clear to him that Greg was finished and he said, ‘I’d like to rent your house,’” Kathy recalled, stunned because, at that raw point, Greg had not made a decision about his future. “I was like, what are you talking about? That’s how sick he is.”
You will hear plenty of people tell of all the good things that Lance did for cancer awareness with his Livestrong organization, and yes, I was one of the first people to buy a Livestrong bracelet when they first came out, but in the end, I don't thing the Lance Armstrong story is a story about cancer awareness, or cheating in cycling for that matter. I think, in the end, that his story is a story about a world class thug, and I hope for once, people finally get the strength to say say that they don't want to hear from this bully ever again until that part get fixed. Lance's ban from sports is ultimately about his   illegal drug use. Changes of criminal activity are due to his lying about it under oath. The truth about Lance Armstrong is that he is a bully and he went after people who spoke the truth.

I am not sure if banishment from sport is the proper response to Lance Armstrong's severe character flaws.  If he is ever allowed to compete in sanctioned events again, I would certainly be interested in what a "clean" Lance Armstrong could do in an Ironman triathlon even, even though I dislike the idea of him being in the spotlight again. I am somewhat skeptical that he should receive a lifetime ban from competition when his cohorts in crime received much less, but the proof of his true contriteness will come out over time. For all the riches and acclaim that Lance has achieved in his lifetime, he is humbled by the simple fact that he cannot do what the typical weekend warrior can do anytime they want and that is to be involved in a competition where you test yourself athletically against yourself and others to see how far you can push yourself under your own power. Lance Armstrong had his opportunity to do so, and he came up as a colossal failure.

"Lights go down
It's dark
The jungle in your head
Can't rule your heart."  (U2 "Vertigo")

...Or can it? In conclusion, I think that Lance is just talking with his head (what is best for Lance) and not with his heart. I believe that redemption is something that comes from the heart and involves a bit of kneeling before (asking forgiveness) and serving those (making things right) with the people you have hurt. I think we will know the day that Lance has fully been brought to his knees. It hasn't happened yet!

"Check mated
Oh yeah
Hours of fun..." (U2 Vertigo)

Meanwhile, I am sure we will be hearing lots from Lance and if you didn't get to see the interviews, don't worry, a movie will soon be coming out and I am sure we will also hear about a forthcoming book.

Meanwhile a former once promising American professional cyclist who raced in Europe before sustaining a horrific crash that left him in a coma and with a serious brain injury says that he raced in Europe and never took a performance enhancing drug. Never heard of Saul Raisin? Maybe you should head over to his Raisin Hope website or read his book Tour de Life. It is now on my list of books to read. Maybe we have the wrong cycling heroes? There are plenty of virtually unknown guys who tried to do it right!
On the afternoon of April 4, 2006 twenty-three year old pro cyclist Saul Raisin charged toward the finish line of a European tune-up race in preparation for his first Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy). Meanwhile in Dalton, Georgia, Saul’s parents waited for the simple but comforting text message he always sent to let them know he’d finished the day’s stage safely: “OK.”
It never arrived.
Through urgent phone calls the Raisins learned their son had crashed, fallen into a coma, and would require emergency brain surgery. They rushed to Europe where they learned that Saul’s doctors didn’t expect him to survive. If he did make it he’d be paralyzed for life. In shock, the Raisins discussed their options, including donating their son’s organs. Then he began to wake.
Prior to his crash Saul was in the process of building an impressive racing resume. He’d won the Best Young Rider jersey at the Tour de Georgia, captured ninth place overall at the Tour of Germany, turned in the strongest American performance at the 2005 World Championships, and won a mountainous stage in the first race of 2006. Trainers were in awe of his early-season strength.
After the crash that strength paid huge dividends. Tour de Life is the story not merely of Saul Raisin’s miraculous return to life, but of the awe-inspiring resumption of his quest to win cycling’s most prestigious race, the Tour de France.

1 comment:

Ski Coach said...

In my view you have it pretty much about as wrong as it's possible to get. Not for one second do you explore the fact that lance Armstrong is the victim of a system that was not under his control. He was deprived of the opportunity to succeed as a clean racer on a level playing field. I know many racers who were fully aware of the need to dope and so chose to never enter the professional ranks. That's how obvious and prevalent this system was. I have much less respect for Landis, Hamilton and other so called "friends" or colleagues who only talked to save their own skins. Lance stands head and shoulders above the lot of them and always will do. He will never be on his knees and has no reason to do so.