Damaged memories and future hopes (Thoughts on the Armstrong Saga post ‘Admission’)
Well, there you have it. Lance Armstrong has finally spoken the words we all knew he needed to do and which were desperately late in arriving. Since watching the first part of the interview this morning I have spoken to quite a few people, seen a lot of tweeting, reporting and reaction. There are so many thoughts that it is difficult to even begin to formulate them in order to construct a coherent blog article, I can but try.
From what I’ve been thinking all day, all things fall into 2 main issues: 1 – The problem with the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport, Armstrongs part in that and what it means to sport as a whole now that the truth is coming out. To a certain extent I believe that Lance Armstrong is certainly not the whole problem nor will he be the solution, no matter how he behaves now or did in the past, the issue and the sport is much, much bigger…all these ex-pro’s who have confessed may play a part in the future in trying to help clean things up if they are willing to truly apologise and use their experience to try to make a difference to those coming into the sport. Phil Liggett stated earlier that the interview had clearly not gone into enough detail, it is not enough to admit what you have done and effectively have ‘no comment’ on how things worked, who helped and provided the drugs and who was responsible for building the atmosphere of Dope or Quit which is how so many riders seem to defend their actions during that era of Cyclings’ chequered past. It is certainly not the case that when Armstrong retired, the doping stopped, so we need to address the deeper problems of culture and what it means to win at the top level and make fundamental changes so that athletes can win based on natural talent and hard work.
The 2nd issue is Armstrong as a person, his behaviour since the revelations, his behaviour when he was racing and his status as a cancer survivor. Unfortunately, the more I see and hear, the sadder it gets. I will admit I was guilty of closing my eyes to a lot of things I was told because he was my hero and I wanted to hold him on a pedestal, I admit that. But now, the more you see and even with this mornings ‘revelations’ it just doesn’t amount to someone to have faith in anymore. I was sat there, literally willing him to show some emotion, some real regret, empty-himself (if you pardon the expression) onto the floor of that tastefully decorated interview room, but it didn’t happen. In my mind, that would be the first step towards rebuilding some of the respect and in turn standing any chance of regaining any level of inspiration for those suffering from cancer or in remission now. I am not denying that the Armstrong story has been inspirational to many people, myself included, but there have been some that are saying he has helped cure people of cancer. Now, today I can’t help but feel angry and think “No, that’s clearly not true at all, that is to do a massive disservice to the thousands of doctors and nurses of the world who really are curing people of cancer”. By that I mean that Armstrongs’ books may have HELPED people feel better during a hideous time in their life and given them a model to suggest that they too can beat the disease, but ultimately it is THEM that has beaten Cancer and their own team of Oncologists and nurses who have helped them to do it.
I think I have said it before, but you can strip away a whole load of circumstances surrounding the whys and wherefores of who doped, how they did it, what the results would of been etc. but underlying all this is just a simple case of your heroes letting you down and you finding out that actually they are not very noble or genuine or even that nice really. I clearly blinkered myself a lot to how Armstrong treated those that he was essentially responsible for, as a team-mate, friend, employer, leader, husband and father, and it just saddens me that I have to admit that in this case at least he isn’t someone to look up to or help formulate our own behaviour or set our moral compass. It seems sugary and ridiculous now, but when I was recovering from Cancer, when I was struggling round another MTB trail with my friends waiting what felt like hours for me to catch up, I would think “Armstrong must have felt like that, and look at him now, I might not be able to win the tour, but I can finish this sodding climb!” . So now it is just hard to face up to the fact that I was hoodwinked into believing that he was someone to place that type of respect in when if I had know the real type of person he was I could still have admired his comeback and there’s no doubt he still had to train harder than many people can comprehend to win the hardest sporting event in the world….he just simply wasn’t a nice person whilst doing it.
There are some that say that you have to be that focused and ruthless to be a true champion, but arguably Armstrong is not a champion anymore, and having met Sir Chris Hoy amongst many other World and Olympic Champions, I know this is a fallacy. Yes, you need to be dedicated, single-minded, sometimes selfish….but many of our champions can do this whilst still being humble, down to earth, approachable and wouldn’t dream of bullying members of their team or their friends.
So to sum up, it’s time to find yourself some new inspiration. With that in mind, check out this video about the most inspirational men (and I say Men because they are bigger men than I have seen some adults behaving recently). If you need to re-affirm your belief in sport and the good it can do, watch this……
Thanks for reading….there’s a lot of other thoughts but those are the ones I’ve managed to drag out into text!