Nimes 2003. Mid July. 35 degrees in the shade.
As I stood in the baking sun for more than five hours at the finishing line of a mid-race stage of the Tour de France waiting to catch a glimpse of my all time hero, Lance Armstrong, I’m blown away when an attractive young lady approaches me selling , for one Euro, the single most desirable, and certainly the coolest, thing I’ve ever seen.
A yellow rubber wristband bearing the Nike branded name of Lance’s new charitable venture – Livestrong.
I buy 10. And I wear a succession of these bands for a number of years.
I’ve already devoured “It’s not about the bike” (sublime) and ‘Every second counts” (something of a shabby follow up) but who cares, the proceeds are going to the Lance Armstrong Foundation (trustees of LIvestrong).
I buy Livestrong T Shirts. I am Lance Armstrong’s greatest evangelist.
Then news comes of the USADA’s alleged”victimisation” of Armstrong. They suspect wrongdoing and they go after him like a dog after a bone. What’s the point I wonder. After all I’ve read the books in which, page after page, he denies wrongdoing; “Why would I take drugs and risk ruining my body having just survived life threatening cancer. I would be the biggest fool on the planet.” I paraphrase, but that’s the sentiment and it runs through the books like a stick of rock.
Why would anyone lie, and lie again and again, this publicly, so convincingly? It’s not possible that it’s a lie.
Yesterday, the USADA issued a 1,000 page report using sworn testimony from 26 people including 15 members of Armstrong’s team at the time of his superhuman successes, US postal.
In it they say; “Together these different categories of eyewitness, documentary, first-hand, scientific, direct and circumstantial evidence reveal conclusive and undeniable proof that brings to the light of day for the first time this systemic, sustained and highly professionalized team-run doping conspiracy.”
Team Doctor, Pedro Celaya, was the mastermind of the hideous cheat but he contests the claims as does Armstrong, but the evidence is no longer refutable.
One question. Why?
Why would a team, comprising of dozens of people no doubt, conspire to cheat so willfully and cover their tracks so assiduously for so many years? what is actually the point of that? In the words of the Horlicks advertising team “How do they sleep at night?”
So, I am the fool. A naive dreamer that like a child simply believed what St Lance said. saint by night, sinner by day that is. You can’t take away what Armstrong did for many suffering people,, you can’t ignore the benefits of the LAF and Livestrong. But now it’s a legacy shrouded in guilt, bad taste and conscience salving.
Oh Lance. You make me so sad now.