Lance On Oprah

The Confessional Interview

By now, everybody knows Lance Armstrong ‘fessed up to his ‘roiding ways. All bets are on for a flurry of court cases from people chasing their money and dignity. Still, you sort of wonder how the sport stayed so blind for so long.

As I pointed out before, even if they take away his bronze medal from Sydney 2000 and strip him of his 7 Tour de France titles, you’re left with the accomplishment itself; and God only knows who else was doing what for their placings in all those races. There’s simply no undoing this mess.

Although in the bright light of retrospection given his confession, it seems mightily obvious that something was very awry with the sport of cycling if somebody won the Tour 7 times. A cycling athlete once told me that cyclists could be broken into two rough groups: Short guys with lots of torque leading the way through the mountainous terrain and tall guys pumping their way ahead on the flat plains. There really isn’t a cyclist who is at once both tall and short, so it is hard for a cyclist to be dominant over the field – unlike say the way Pete Sampras or Roger Federer towered over their field. The athlete said that it was highly unlikely the same competitor won 2 Tours, let alone twice in a row.

And here we had an individual winning it a record seven times. Even if they strip him of his wins, nobody is ever going to win as many as seven tours without some kind of help. It’s just that kind of sport and that kind of race. So they can strip Armstrong of these honours, but over time I think the seven abandoned results are going to mean something totally different, for, unlike Ben Johnson’s tainted 100m sprint record from Seoul 1988, nobody ‘doing it fair’ is going to go past 7 wins let alone come close.

And there it would sit, in everybody’s consciousness that one time, a man with the help of medical science was able to accomplish the impossible. We may berate him for being a cheat today, but we may well come to a different understanding at some point in the future.

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