July 14, 2013
The Tour De France Post Armstrong Scandal
The Tour de France is in its final week and things have been heating up. While seeing men in tight fitting attire riding bikes that cost more than cars riding along the roads of France isn’t for everyone, for those cycling fans this is the Super Bowl, the World Series and March Madness all rolled into one glorious three weeks of ups, downs and all around.
While this particular writer lives by the mantra of “not being a fan of things” I have to admit I love the Tour de France. As an avid cyclist, who rides to keep fit, I appreciate that this is the fastest human powered sport out there. I appreciate that this is some 2000 miles of riding over more than three weeks in what could be arguably the most grueling athletic competition.
But don’t mistake me for someone who spends Sunday afternoon watching pro football or gets caught up rooting for the local baseball team. Truth be told, I don’t know who played in the Super Bowl and I can’t name three baseball players. No, that’s because cycling is my sport, and it is just as exciting to watch as to go out and ride.
Now as a cycling enthusiast (perhaps a better word than “fan”) I’m asked, “what do you think of Lance Armstrong? Are you upset?”
Well, I think he’s a perfect example of a poor sport who would do anything to win, including cheat and destroy lives to cover it up. He cared more about winning than the sport he claimed to love. What is worse is that even after “coming clean,” he’s asking for redemption while still blaming the sport. But the absolute worst is that he still wants to compete. Give it up Lance, hang up the bike and fade away already.
So, that sort of answers the question about me being upset. Did it surprise me that Armstrong had cheated to win his seven Tour de France victories? Not really, as the rumors were just there too long.
Did it upset me? Not really. I didn’t get angry; in fact, it was more news for me. As a business reporter, I’m more upset about some corporate news frankly, and as someone who follow politics I care about elections. I just watch the Tour de France.
What I am is disappointed about is that Armstrong has tarnished the sport. I’m also disappointed that people assume I must have idolized this guy. Truth be told, I always thought he was a bit of a jerk. He was a poor sport before he had been diagnosed with cancer and while he was a former World Champion (which is something completely apart from winning the Tour de France and likely something Armstrong won clean) he was also something of a middling racer.
Now I never raced anywhere close to Armstrong’s level, so when I say a “middling racer,” I do mean for someone at his level. As someone who was good enough to make the team to go to France he wasn’t really anything that special. He had pulled out of the Tour de France in his first outing and when he pulled his number he looked anything but graceful in doing so. No doubt this is tough decision for any pro to make, but at that moment he seemed far from a champion.
Yes, Armstrong won a few stages — that’s the individual day’s races, which contribute to ones’ overall time in the three week long race — but he wasn’t close to being a champion.
Then he was diagnosed with cancer and things didn’t look good. Armstrong is a fighter, even if he is a liar and a cheat, and he not only pulled through, he beat cancer. Then he made his comeback. For this egomaniac, it wasn’t enough; he went further and decided to win at any cost.
Nor was he the only one. So many people were “doing it” — cheating with performance enhancing drugs — that the seven years that Armstrong won have no official winners. That’s a big black mark on the sport.
Now the race continues again. If anything, perhaps the event’s organizer, the UCI, should have come down a little harder on everyone. This tour has one former cheat, Alberto Contador, vying for the yellow jersey. He won the big race three times, but had one win stripped for allegations of using a banned substance.
Another former banned substance user, David Millar, is now racing for Garmin Sharp — owned by Slipstream — a team that prides itself on racing clean. Millar is an example of a “reformed cheat.”
If it were up to me, both Millar and Contador (and probably a few others) would be banned for life. This might be sound harsh, especially as Millar is very vocal that he knows what he did was wrong. However, for this event to get past the Lance era for good, they need to ensure that there is no question at all; to do this the UCI and the Tour should send a strong message.
In the meantime, I’ll be watching each day as the riders head toward the Paris — also known as the City of Lights — where fittingly it will end with a nighttime finish on Sunday, July 21. I’ll be enjoying every moment and won’t waste a moment thinking of Armstrong.