Sunday, August 26, 2012

"A badass on the bike" -Floyd Landis

“To all the cynics, I'm sorry for you, ... I'm sorry you can't believe in miracles... This is a great sporting event and hard work wins it.” -Lance Armstrong (Farewell speech at the Champs-Élysées podium, after winning his seventh Tour de France.)

Much has been written about Lance Armstrong that I will not repeat here, but I do want to write a few things.

I have had a picture of Lance Armstrong in my office for maybe eight years (Tour de France 2003 Stage 15 Luz Ardiden). I watched him daily starting at 5:30 A.M.PST during the Tour de France. I watched bicycle racing DVDs for countless hours while exercising on my indoor trainer. I followed Lance's twitter updates during his comeback. I cannot think of any other athlete that has captured my attention and imagination as Lance has. I always rooted hard for Lance.

Over the years I kept abreast of doping allegations but I was never too concerned about the possibility that Lance was a doper; I assumed he was. I assumed that all the top cycling competitors were doping to the extent that the doping controls could not definitively detect; all those that finished on the podium in the Tour de France during the years of Lance's seven victories were all involved in some doping scandal in their careers. Moreover, I figured that since Lance only had one testicle, he had to be getting his testosterone from somewhere. His hematocrit was always very "healthy," but never exceeded 50 percent. Besides all this, Lance passed over 500 drug tests (or did he?). In spite of all the hearsay and allegations I have always been excited by Lance's extreme competitiveness. Floyd Landis even admits, "He was a badass on the bike."

One interesting point about all this is that even though I have long considered Lance to be an under-the-radar doper, I have rooted for him nonetheless. I have enjoyed the hero's tale. And Lance is a hero of sorts. I think that Lance quite possibly would have been the best cyclist of his generation anyway; we'll never know for sure.I am not excusing Lance, just saying that I've enjoyed him regardless, for being an entertaining, fierce competitor. The real shame is that he was allowed to go on for so long. There is something very unjust about the belated justice that is being meted out to Lance now.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing for me is to watch the familiar patterns of human behavior in the attacks, denials, and defenses. And as usual the real heroes are unsung.