The Lance Thing

lance wave


It is pretty amazing that during the nearly two years of this blog’s existence, I have not talked about Lance. There’s a reason for that — the same reason that I do not talk about politics or religion at work. For a long time within the cycling community, Lance was a divisive topic. I suppose he still is, but not nearly to the same degree. Before people either loved him and defended him with all their might (he has never failed a test!!), or wrote him off as a fake, a cheater, and a bully. Now the former camp is merely disappointed, while the latter is derisive.

I was not a Lance fan. He did not get me into cycling, at least not directly. Realistically, he probably got us all into cycling because he popularized the sport in America. I did not one day see him dominate the sport, and decide I wanted to do that. I developed my affinity by getting hurt, and running out of options. Lance was just there.

In three days, Lance is going to admin he did something bad to Oprah, which means this post will be outdated by next week.

The world will respond with a collective, sarcastic “Really?”

This is not a post about my patting myself on the back for getting it right. It is my fascination about the topic. I am interested in Lance as a student of history. I read just about all of the USADA documents, Tyler Hamilton’s book, and countless online articles. Regardless whether he doped, it was a pivotal period for the sport of cycling. It was a different era, unfortunately the heart of the doping era, but distinctive nonetheless.

I sort of understand, and that comes from Tyler’s book. I’m not making excuses for Lance, nor am I condemning him, but I get the drive that gives him that edge. Thankfully I don’t think I have that drive, but I know that it exists in competitive human beings. Just like with baseball in the 90s (and maybe now), people will do anything they can to get ahead. At some point it becomes not who has the best raw, natural talent, but who has that plus the savvy, ingenuity, and the drive to bolster that talent with artificiality. As Tyler says in his book, every rider had to make the choice whether to dope or give up on their dreams. You know, the ones they’ve been working toward all their lives. If everything that has been alleged was true, which I believe it is, then Lance was the best at doping by far, and also had a whole lot of talent and ability.

There had been many instances of doping before Lance, after Lance, and there will be more to come. You can bet on it. Human nature.

In fact, all the other stuff bothers me a whole lot more than the doping. It was how he treated the people close to him like the Andreus, Tyler, Floyd, WADA, and all of his doubters. He can explain and apologize the doping, but not all the years of lying, manipulation, aggression, and most of all, conceit.

That brings me to Thursday. He will confess something to Oprah and probably apologize. I don’t think he can say enough to counteract all that other stuff, but at least he can lessen the stigma toward doping as connected to cycling. As much as the sport of cycling has risen thanks to him, it has suffered nearly as much afterward. Pros now have fewer sponsors, smaller salaries, and not as much opportunity.

Lance can and probably will change that. He may do it for his own selfish reasons, and that’s fine, but I think we need him in our corner to bring back the sport. Regardless what he put in his body, he won 7 really big races, when there should have been an asterisk next to everyone in the field. He was the face and voice that inspired millions to exercise and get fit. Think what you want of him as a person, but that part is kind of awesome.

If there’s one thing Americans love more than piling on someone when they’re down, they love a redemption story. One day Lance will get his, whether he deserves it or not, and we’ll all be better off for it.

15 responses to “The Lance Thing

  • Kevin Meechan

    Well said Aaron!

  • Thomas Clayton

    Amazing to me Aaron was friends, even F.B., friends declaring they would be-friend me because I said he used. Not one of them has said “sorry”. Some people believe in imaginary things, I do understand that, we live in the real world – right now. I think we still can change things!

    • aaronwest

      This is one of those things. Before the election, people were friending/defriending left and right due to the candidate they chose. Everyone has their reasons for believing something. I just try to usually keep mine private (at least until now), and be respectful of those who feel differently.

  • Bryan Ream

    All I have to say, it was a level playing field, he just did it better. Was it right? No, but he did inspire millions to exercise, get fit, and fight cancer over the years

    • Bryan Ream

      Even after everything that has happen, it still gives me goosebumps watching him win over OTHER riders that were doping too 😉

    • aaronwest

      Absolutely, level playing field, and I hoped I conveyed that with the asterisk comment on the rest of the field. He won and did good things, great things for the world. A lot of people have a lot of reason to be thankful to Lance. The other side of that were people who lost opportunities,credibility, and careers because of the Lance machine.

      I’d like to get tapes of those 7 wins and watch them in their entirety, knowing what we know now. We would see a lot that we wouldn’t expect. And can only wonder who would have prevailed if the field was 100% clean. If that were the case, I still Lance would have won several, but maybe not all 7.

  • James

    He was the best doper among a field of professional dopers. He still was an incredible athlete. That said, I agree with you that his true failing is in his character, not that he succumbed to the temptation of taking PED to stay level with everyone else who was doing it, but in the way that he crucified anyone and everyone who dared challenge him on it. That was despicable.

    • aaronwest

      If you turn a cat on it’s back, it may let you pet it for a short while, until eventually the claws come out, and they get more aggressive until you’re out of harms way. That’s where Lance was, and his methods were absolutely despicable. I predict that he cannot explain those away, and will simply ask for forgiveness.

  • Gerry

    For those who never go deeper than Oprah for their Lance news, this interview could restore some of his huge fan base, I’ll bet. Like you said, people love a good redemption story (not just Americans!) and many won’t want to be bothered by ‘details’ like the lives and careers he ruined (or attempted to) so he could keep his dirty little secret (and the money and influence that came with it).

    Good post, Aaron.

    • aaronwest

      Thanks, Gerry. It has been interesting this week to hear from the non-cycling friends about Lance. I’ve probably been asked my opinion at least a dozen times, probably more. “Do you think he really did it?” “He has done so much for cancer, why would he cheat?” “Wasn’t everyone doing it?”. I think those are the people that will be targeted with the Oprah interview, and us who have a better understanding will be unsatisfied. I guess I’ll find out in 30 minutes, and you will when you wake up.

  • Jim Brennan

    you got it right, Aaron. doping is doping, but manipulation, hurting people who trusted him, indifference, they are neither traits to be admired, nor qualties of a true champion. He had such a great story to begin with, now I’ll just look at his seven Tours like I look at Barry Bonds’ home run record, one big asterisk.

    • aaronwest

      I don’t see how he is going to make excuses for all of that behavior. He is trying to make amends to individuals now, but he could not be more transparent. We know his motives are only because he has very few other options. He cannot compete, has lost most of his sponsors, and is no longer affiliated with his charity. Despite how obvious his desperation, he will benefit from this, asterisk or not.

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