A reader has thrown out a challenge, and I must accept it. In light of the Lance Armstrong revelations, a reader asked me how I felt, because I appeared to be an Armstrong fan.
First, let me clarify: I am a fan of cycling; I am not a fan of Lance Armstrong.
I was late to Tour racing. Though the TV was often on in the newsroom during Armstrong’s glory years, I did not follow the race stage by stage. A co-worker was a fan. He would take five-minute breaks here and there during the race to see what was going on.
“How’s Lance doing?” I would ask, because that was the only question I knew to ask. And yes, as an American I was proud of his wins.
My real fascination with the Tour de France came in 2009, the year of Lance’s “comeback.” At the beginning I thought I should root for him, but something about Armstrong bothered me. I had read his autobiography “It’s Not About the Bike,” and got the feeling this is a guy who would use anyone to get what he wanted. Case in point, the young woman who stood by his side throughout his cancer treatment only to be kicked to the curb when he recovered. His lack of feeling irked me.
So, when an interviewer approached a very young rider from Luxembourg, Andy Schleck, and asked him if he was afraid of Lance Armstrong, I thought, “Well, of course, he is.” But Schleck answered, “Maybe Lance Armstrong should be afraid of me.”
I laughed out loud at the audaciousness, and immediately became a fan. Schleck came in second to Alberto Contador that year with Armstrong coming in third. I remember how peeved Armstrong looked standing on the podium. He looked like a spoiled brat who’d been told “no, you can’t have it.” While Contador and Schleck beamed, Armstrong glowered. It was not pretty.
After that, I was more willing to believe the worst about Armstrong, more willing than more seasoned fans who had witnessed the glory years. Still, I kept coming back to one thing: How could someone who almost died from cancer risk putting drugs into his body? As a survivor myself, I couldn’t fathom it.
Then again, winning has never been everything for me. I read once that Armstrong not only wanted to win, he wanted certain others to lose and would enter a race he didn’t care about just to beat them.
I came to realize, whether he doped or not, Lance Armstrong was not a nice guy, despite the millions he raised for his charity.
When USADA finally brought Lance down, I was sad for the sport, but not for him. He bullied, he threatened, he destroyed people’s lives.
Today I read Armstrong won’t interview under oath with USADA to reveal all he knows about doping in cycling, which means his lifetime ban won’t be lifted.
It’s for the best. It’s way past time for Lance to go away and let cycling and its fans pick up the pieces.
But a reader challenged me, and I wanted to go on record as saying, I love the sport, but no, not Lance Armstrong.
Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.