Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mr. Armstrong, Why You Block Me??

--The other day following the news about George Hincapie's reported grand jury testimony I started seeing Lance's (@Lancearmstrong) Tweets retweeted. I follow him so it was odd I wasn't seeing his Tweets directly. I clicked on his name and tried to follow. "This user has blocked you" it said. Weird.

I'm not sure what did it exactly. Maybe it was my post about "Lancevertising".

The other night I mentioned this to Scott, Melanie's brother-in-law. This was right before we were about to sit down and watch the Tyler Hamilton piece on 60 Minutes. We got to talking about the issue of doping and I stated how I didn't think the guys who took PEDs had a choice.

At the time I wasn't able to articulate it very well but now it's clearer. One definition of choice is "the power, right, or liberty to choose." People who take drugs to gain an unfair advantage have no other choice. If they did, they wouldn't take the drugs. The guys who do have a choice don't do it.

Why? For the same reason the alcoholic drinks. Because he has no other choice. He is compelled by a force greater than himself to drink. Just like Lance and all the others. They couldn't not do it. Their whole lives had been spent chasing that feeling. To race, for them, is an outright addiction and something they were willing to feed at all costs. For them to say "No" would have been impossible.

The story of Lance's use has been known all along. But only now is it reaching the mainstream. Yet there are those holding on to the bitter end. The other day while out riding a motorist stopped alongside to tell me "Lance Armstrong is not on drugs!"

And why wouldn't they believe? For some, he's the reason why they're riding a bike at all. His triumphs in France led to their personal triumphs that continue today. For others, he's their reason to live. His fight with cancer gave them hope with their own battle. And both are incredible gifts.

For me, someone who had neither of these connections, my emotional ties to him are limited. I see through all the cancer-fighting rhetoric because he's not the guy who first got me on a bike or made me believe in myself. Instead, I see a man desperately trying to clean his conscience through his fight against cancer. Or in the least, gain immunity through it.

I see a guy who had no other choice. He had to win. And if others were doping to win, he had to do that as well.

What about him "never testing positive?" As pointed out by Tyler Hamilton, that's not exactly the case as there was the Tour de Suisse positive. More importantly, that is what, in Armstrong's mind, made it all okay. If you don't test positive, you're not cheating.

In a 2001 interview with David Walsh, he was asked about Tommy Simpson (the cyclist who died at the top of Mont Ventoux from an amphetamine overdose). His first reply was that he knew nothing of the history of the sport. When asked again he replied:

"Tommy Simpson never tested positive."

Lance, like all the others who've avoided testing positive, made sure he was never caught. And because others were doing it, it was okay for him to do it. And since he never got caught, he never did anything wrong. He was just playing by the rules, the ones set by the others who had to win at all costs, too.

Despite that logic, and all the personal marketing he's done through his charity, his time may be up. And hopefully all those who started riding because of him will keep riding. And all those who were inspired to fight a bit harder through whatever their struggles should still be inspired.

With or without drugs, the Tour de France is an incredible human feat. To finish it, a lifetime accomplishment. To finish it faster than all others seven years in a row, unfathomable. Lance did the unimaginable and he did it again and again.

But the lie is getting old. The sport is trying desperately to move on. And now more than ever this is real hope in the form of bright young stars. So it's time we bring out the skeletons, all of them. And stop confusing courage with integrity.

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