There was this guy, a world-renowned cyclist, who inspired thousands of people. He won the Tour de France 7 times, battled and beat cancer, shacked up with a rock goddess and raised millions for charity. If ever human spirit had a poster child this man was it. Even if cycling really wasn’t your bag, it was very difficult to think negative thoughts about him. Yea ok, journalists repeatedly tried to smear his reputation as a supreme athlete and an honest guy by continually claiming he had cheated and won his titles dishonestly .He fought these allegations virulently taking the higher ground in the face of growing speculation that his sport, of which he was the undisputed king, was rife with drug use and dubiously achieved physical results.
Then something incredulous happened. After years of alleged negative drug tests and more denials than a Lehman’s brother executive in front of a senate committee, he only bloody goes on Oprah Winfrey’s television programme and admits to being a fake, drug taking,cheating,colostomy bag full of bullshit and piss.
Sadly his autobiography will now have to be rewritten as the first one is now eligible for the Booker. Amateur cyclists are busy tearing down posters of the (wrongfully) yellow jersey wearing gobshite and every official cycling body is calling for this man’s head on a platter.
Lance ‘fluorescent piss’ Armstrong has become omnipresent in his media coverage of late and I have to say, it’s becoming a bit dull.
The televisual confession is an insult to anyone who listens to it.
Not since Hugh Grant celebrated his new-found Hollywood success by temporarily placing his penis in a young lady’s mouth for a modest amount of money and then deciding to salvage his foppish brand of Englishness on primetime television has the disingenuous apology been more aimed at salvaging market value. My thoughts at the time were a little confused as to why Hugh Grant was apologising to me. Where he chose to place his appendages didn’t really seem any of my business. His public fall from grace was not linked in my eyes to his horny escapades but the fact that his partner Elizabeth Hurley had just been publicly humiliated. Wether or not we are all as white as driven snow is irrelevant when we judge the exploits and actions of others. He seemed to come across a bit of a shit, certainly a million miles away from the foppish stammering English charmer that was being sold to us every time he uttered a public word.
Ultimately he was just an actor with a penis without a sat-nav. No-one was emotionally vested in him, he amused and entertained, he didn’t inspire or cause life changing epiphanies. He starred in moderately amusing films and then publicly shat on his girlfriend.
Armstrong was very different to ol’ shagger Grant. He defied our own feelings of mortality and insignificance by showing millions of us that dedication, handwork, determination and sheer force of will can literally climb French mountains. His unchallenged prowess led to the superman tags having more and more resonance. The Tour de France may have been awarding him stage victories but he was certainly changing into his yellow jersey in a phone box. The counter intuitive nature of his consistent victories and achievements brought some criticism but they were dismissed amongst his millions of fans as cynicism and attempts by the press, rival competitors and governing bodies to smear a truly great athlete.
Who would have thunk it that Armstrong’s kryptonite would prove to be the truth. Unequivocal, incontestable, incontrovertible fact, he was a cheating shit whose feats of unimaginable greatness were actually engineered and obtained through deception, lies and fakery.
The audience he is aiming his televisual confession at, can never be won over. He promised,t hrough his achievements and victories that man is capable of touching the sky. But has ultimately delivered another snake oil salesman, another evangelistic voice claiming falsehoods. The condescension of a media age that sells people as Brands constantly protecting their intellectual property. I have to say I couldn’t give a flying fuck what dribbling pile of humility and justification spewed onto Oprah’s lap during Armstrong’s interview. I don’t care, it wasn’t so much a fall from grace as the great reveal at the end of the wizard of Oz. Behind the curtain was not the all-powerful wizard but a plumber from Basildon called Trevor. Armstrong didn’t make a mistake, he didn’t trip over his laces and accidentally fall onto syringes containing superman formula or stumble out of the shower, slipping on a wet floor and falling backwards into a blood transfusion. He wasn’t seduced in a bar and had his drink spiked with Spanish fly and steroids. Behind the curtain was not athletic greatness but a plumber from Basildon called Trevor who had a propensity for winning through dishonest means.
So my initial detestation quickly gave way to irritation and then boredom. The thought that this gobshite could protect his “brand” by exposing his own indiscretions and confirming the widely held journalistic view that he was a bit a cheating cunt, was hilarious.
My brain processes information in strange ways sometimes, it can take a really tangential view of a topic or it can disregard the obvious and look for what subjectively it finds interesting.Armstrong and his fluorescent piss aside I found myself thinking about what must have happened in order for 7 Tour de France titles and numerous other cycling achievements to be awarded to the two-wheeled ‘boots the chemist’.There is speculation that Armstrong might turn whistleblower and reduce the sport,he helped turn to rubble, into real dust: by exposing the enormity of the corruption and the levels of complicity amongst all involved.Possibly in return for the reducing of his lifetime ban from professional competitive cycling.Wether he does or not,I don’t care.It’s hard to lend any integrity or credence to the words of a man who was reaped the enormous financial and influential benefits of being a figure of (false) athletic dominance.Who chooses now,the moment of his own exposure and ruin to become whistleblower.
But any who I’m digressing.
The soap opera element of Armstrong’s bullshit has a very limited shelf life in my head but more interesting questions are forming.Media hysteria and the black and white nature of reporting heroes and villains sometimes seems to obscure the more interesting elements.
What exactly do these performance enhancing drugs do? Surely, physiologically, anyone taking them still has the limits of the human body to contend with.People would have noticed if Armstrong had done his 7 tours on a Yamaha 750 or had developed a Steve Austin-esque metal thigh or two.
If drug taking is prevalent throughout cycling,certainly throughout Armstrong’s winning era,than why did no-one else beat him in 7 years? Was he a good athlete to start with who was just given the edge over other cyclists by his drug use? Why didn’t they take the same drugs as he did and if they did,why didn’t they have the same results? e.g constant,consistent winning. Were there any fellow competitors who were absolutely drug free and who would have had a reasonable shot at winning,if Armstrong and his fellow drug takers hadn’t of taken part?
What is the difference between the times achieved by doping cyclists and the times achieved by non doping cyclists? What actual tangible difference did drug taking make? Evidentially I don’t think winning is enough.If the whole competition is dominated by results achieved falsely how can ANY of the results be valid?
When Ben Johnson broke the world record for the 100meters with a time of 9.83 in 1987,the world rejoiced until he tested positive for a banned substance.Contextually the Ben Johnson and his great rival,Carl Lewis’ era were dominated by accusations of drug taking.Carl Lewis himself raised many allegations about his fellow athletes,although he didn’t seem too bothered publicly until he started losing. It took a further 12 years for another man to run the 100 meters faster and a further 10 years for someone to absolutely obliterate Ben Johnson’s record.There is definitely,however,no cloud of impropriety hanging over Ussain Bolt.A man has simply leapt buildings in a single bound,a man whose appeal seems to hinge on the fact that he looks like he’s not even trying.
I’m not in any way condoning performance enhancing drugs,nor am I supporting the seemingly sinister Machiavellian manner in which Armstrong’s dominance seems to have been protected.I’m just curious.Armstrong has defiled his own legacy but the biggest questions in my mind comes down to,’How was that possible? How could one man corrupt an entire sport? How could the complicity be so widespread,if the deception was so large? I Don’t want to hear Armstrong grassing up his fellow colleagues,simply because his own value has hit the shitter and he’s trying to salvage the loosest of reputations.He lost the right to be the good guy the moment he put into action the building of his own false image that so many people found inspirational. I would like to see an independent enquiry that has no vested interest in protecting or editing the results.If there is integrity anywhere in the sport of cycling then it seems now is the time to purge itself and roll the boulder to see what crawls out.Otherwise? fuck ’em.We all love Bradley Wiggins,Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy but will we really ever look at competitive road cycling as anything other than a sport that is prone to covering up its own systemic corruptions.
What I find interesting is less the fallibility of man’s greed and more the actual minutia:what do the drugs do? How does a sport degenerate into such a state that performance enhancing drugs are a prerequisite to competing professionally?
Positive drug testing becoming simply an occupational hazard.
How does the protection of one man,his image and his reputation become so important that collusion amongst fellow competitors,colleagues,official bodies,sponsors,the medical world,the media(certainly facets anyway) and lawyers are necessary.And how the hell did so many people keep such a glaringly obvious lie afloat? How was the media manipulated in such a way that even when the truth evaporated free,it was contested and challenged with such vehemence that it became merely conjecture? I’m more interested in how the minutia will explain the bigger picture.How financial assets are protected and the public are sold lies instead of integrity.Brand Armstrong was a massive slice of cash for a lot of people.That is probably why I don’t view Armstrong’s public simpering any differently than I would if a spokesman for Pepsi went on Oprah to apologise for the fact that it had been proven that they weren’t the choice of the next generation.
Our lives are enhanced with the inspiration we gleam from the great people who travel amongst us.We deserve more than a brand,we deserve our heroes and heroines to be real.Charities are probably starting to be very wary about who they appoint as their figure heads and ambassadors now that high-profile ‘celebs’ are being revealed to be gobshites.
I don’t read tabloids and I object massively to the news been presented with any type of bias,I only want facts.I follow the writings of certain commentators because they present their opinion in parallel with the facts not instead of.I don’t want Armstrong being allowed air time to protect or salvage his corporate brand,I want him to face the consequences of his actions.I want the reporting of it to be objective,excluding emotion and presenting the why,the who and the how in such a manner that I have more than erroneous information on which to base my opinions.