Saturday, January 19, 2013
Cheated by a cheater
There aren't many interviews worth getting up for in the middle of the night to watch and unfortunately, as it turned out, this wasn't one of them. Perhaps if Tony Blair or George W Bush ever get tried for war crimes that might be the programme worth watching bleary eyed as the snow gently melts on the roof. Watching a professional sportsman lie his way through an hours questions by his host, ducking some questions and in time honoured fashion pausing emotively whilst he mentioned his children was like watching an oil slick dry on a road surface, something else Armstrong would have been keen to avoid during his 'day job'.
As I have said before witnessing Armstrong being booed by a sizable portion of the crowd on the Champs during his farewell appearance at the TDF was genuinely a surreal experience. As I said to some fellow cycling fans the following year it was like being present when somebody booed Pele or our own dear Queen. Armstrong was never forgiven by the French for not being Eddie Merckx, a Belgian cycling legend who the French didn't like either, but the point with Merckx was that he raced all the classics plus a whole lot more races, Armstrong's achievements were always downplayed by a lot of cycling fans because he only ever raced the Tour (or the Olympics) and there were always questions over his ability to come back so strongly from cancer and its aftermath.
Last night (I know it was shown the night before as well) posed as many questions as it did answer those we had all been waiting for somebody to ask and get a response to. There was little or no contrition, he has already apologised to Livestrong and whilst I know that people found his books a great deal of comfort as they or their loved ones battled illness (I know I did), it now feels so hollow, the equivalent of saying Mussolini wasn't all bad because he got the trains to run on time. Armstrong came across as psychologically and morally confused, he was sorry for some parts but not repentant when it came to bullying or even the fact that he considered drug taking to be the norm so therefore he went along with it. He still denies having any influence over any team members, despite the overwhelming number of testimonies that counter that standpoint, and denies he was ever responsible for any bullying of fellow cyclists or people associated with any of the teams he rode for, again there is a lot of evidence available to suggest this is all a pile of....
The worse part, if it is at all possible to have a worse part in what was one of the worst exercises in self aggrandisement I have ever seen displayed by anybody who wasn't a politician, was the fact that at the end of it he still wants to be able to compete again, he doesn't feel that he deserves what he called 'the death penalty'. If it wasn't in such bad taste I would invoke the spirit of the late, great Bill Hicks and say that he must have such huge balls they must be carried around in a wheelbarrow. Oops I just did.
Of course as well as opening the proverbial can of fishing bait the interview also opens the door to a thousand lawsuits from sponsors, fellow riders (well Bradley Wiggins and one other) who were duped (and doped) out of places, posterity and prize money by his actions. Armstrong himself recognises this fact, the opening of Pandora's box being what he called the '75 million dollar day'.
Sport, as a spectator sport, is ultimately about suspension of our normal lives, about losing ourselves in the great emotional ride that sport brings to us, for professional sportsmen (as we have again seen this week with the latest Suarez admission) it is about winning. For Armstrong losing at cycling was likened to dying from cancer and he was prepared to go to extreme lengths to prevent that 'death'. Where he should have been strong (ironic given the name of his charity) was in refusing to take drugs, of not being a sheep and of not accepting that drugs were the only way to win, to state that the only way to win during that era was to take drugs is to insult Greg Lemond, Miguel Indurain and the late Laurent Fignon, all contemporaries early in his career, all genuine 'greats', who rode hard to win but always within the rules and the spirit of the sport.
Posted by Paul at 10:47 AM