Let’s start this article off a game of ‘who am I?’ See how quickly you can identify the following cyclist:
I was a multiple Tour de France winner however I was never a favourite of the French. I was often prickly with journalists. My career was interrupted by a life threatening event. I devoted time to a cause that gave great hope to many people.
My name is… Easy?
Of course it has to be Lance Armstrong and I’m guessing that about 99.9 percent of you would have selected the Texan as your answer. That is totally understandable, even though the answer is former Italian champion Gino Bartali.
Bartali was a two time winner of the Tour de France (1938 and 1948) and three time winner of the Giro d’Italia (1936, 1937 and 1946). His career was interrupted by World War II.
He put himself at considerable personal risk by delivering false identity documents to Jewish Italians and their families during the German occupation of his country. He would roll up the documents and hide them within the frame of his bicycle to pass through Nazi checkpoints and would ride many hundreds of kilometres at a time to complete his task.
His courage saved countless lives and yet he barely spoke of his ordeals. He was a vital cog in the underground movement during the war and was a hero to many both on and off the bike.
Yes, my opener was a trick question and I’ll admit to being deliberately devious in the way I presented it to you, but the fact that most of us would not have even considered any other cyclist than Lance Armstrong illustrates the extent to which the world has been hijacked by the Armstrong juggernaut, even after it has plunged into disgrace.
Instead of eagerly anticipating the first showing of the pro-teams at next week’s Tour Down Under, all attention will instead turn back to Lance with the airing of the Oprah Winfrey interview.
Of course I’ll be watching too – my curiosity will get the better of me – but I shudder at the thought of how many more column inches will be devoted to this fallen icon in the follow up, especially as most of what is going to be said has already been revealed or at the very least highly suspected.
I don’t particularly care for what Armstrong has to say. He had his chances in the past to come clean but chose not too, instead clinging steadfastly to the lie that the only thing he was on was his bike.
I don’t particularly care if he tries to bring down the whole cycling world in the interview. He can say whatever he wants.
What I do want to see however is an admission of guilt. Pure and simple, with no dancing around the topic or fancy word play. I want to see Lance Armstrong look down the camera and say, “Yes, I did this. I cheated.”
I doubt I’ll feel much sympathy for Armstrong, even if the line of questioning brings him to tears. He has hurt too many people along the way to play the sorrowful repentant and there is no amount of spin that could possibly make him out to be the victim.
British cyclist Nicole Cook expressed it best in her retirement speech earlier this week.
“When Lance cries on Oprah later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward.”
Genuine people like Christophe Bassons, the French rider who in 1999 openly spoke about drugs within the peloton and as a result was hounded out of the sport and lost his career. Others such as Betsy and Frankie Andreu or Emma O’Reilly were also howled down.
While a confession from Armstrong won’t right past wrongs, it may at least provide some closure.
Play The Roar’s exclusive Lance Armstring drinking game while watching his interview with Oprah!