Lance Armstrong Remains a Great Cyclist

January 17, 2013

We should not expect our sports heroes to be nice people. Not if we want them to be singled minded, focused, dedicated, machine-like beings willing to set aside any other life to win. Winners at this level have to be people we would not want as friends.


Doping in cycling does not guarantee that you will win. In stage after stage in the Tour de France, in the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta d’Espana and other high profile races, scores of men who doped came nowhere and last. The idea that there is a drug that will turn you from nothing to superman overnight in one dose is ludicrous, but many believe it. The doping that modern cyclists use gives them an edge of performance over a long period. But it means they have to dope over a long period. This is why the drug screening system in place now should be dismantled. It does not work because those in charge were complicit.


Cycle racing at this level is the most grueling mind bending undertaking in sport. If you think you could ride a bike at an average speed of 25 mph or more every day for three weeks up and down two major mountain ranges in temperatures ranging from cool to blistering, in humidity ranging from desert to jungle, in the company of others who either hate you or only like you as a temporary teammate, without thinking you could use a little help, without losing your mind, you are not a cyclist, and you don’t know cycle racing.   


Lance Armstrong’s ‘crime’ is lying, serially lying, to a large number of people over a long period of time. But doping or not, flawed person or worse, he was one of the greatest racing cyclists to get on a bike. He focused on one race, the Tour de France and so does not rank as high in my estimation as Eddy Merckx or Jacques Anquetil or even Louison Bobet, all of whom won many different races over their careers.  


I don’t have to like Armstrong or approve his lifestyle to admire his grit. I do not approve of his decision to take PEDs but my gamblers instinct says he could have won most of those TDF’s even if he had not. And therein lays some shame.


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