I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time. Years, really. Ever since Lance Armstrong began dominating the Tour de France, it was eminent that “they” would come after him with everything they could. Truth is, I believe any champion, especially one that has such a strong-hold of the podium over the rest of the competition, will always be scrutinized, checked and discredited for their efforts. No one likes to lose but even worse, in this day in age, no one can take accountability for anything they do. Excuses and blame are fabricated with ease and not a second thought. As simple as the breath we breathe, we’ve become a “it wasn’t me” or “it’s not my fault” society.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m far from perfect and there are times when I don’t succeed, I find myself evaluating the scenario, in hopes of a reason other than my own imperfections, that justifies my loss. And most of the time, it comes right back on my shoulders.
For many reasons, I find the Lance Armstrong situation a sad and unfortunate culmination of events. In my opinion, there is no other cyclists who has done more for the sport than Lance. Especially in America, where cycling has never been mainstream. Because of Armstrong, it put us on the map. It opened the door for thousands of people to get out on their bikes and discover what we, as cyclists, all know and love. How many people do you know that aren’t “cyclists” but are still glued to the television for three weeks in July. How many times have you been yelled at by the idiot in a car, the words “Go Lance”. On one particular occasion, a young boy, maybe 10 years old, shouted “Go Neil Armstrong.” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. This kid obviously needs to get his American heroes straight, but that fact that he put the two together, cyclists and Armstrong, made an impression on me.
To many, Lance has been a hero. A motivation to get on the bike and do something amazing. An example that one can survive a deadly disease and ride away, living strong. He’s been the topic of conversation, bridging the gap between your football obsessive coworker and you, the guy that for some reason shaves his legs and drinks bottle after bottle of water all day.
In my lifetime, I don’t believe there will be another cyclist that can match what he has done, specifically in the Tour de France and for cycling in America. I don’t think there is a cyclist out there that has the time, money and motivation to invest that much into his or herself, to win seven in a row. I just won’t happen. It takes an incredibly selfish person to be a champion. Which also has it’s pros and cons. On the flip side, that same person that will stop at nothing, try everything imaginable and go to what ever expense is necessary, will typically have no problem taking some sort of performance enhancing drug to get there.
In any sport, the elite are few. There are those with raw talent, 100% love and devotion for the sport that on any given day, can out wit, out play and out perform anyone. Then, there are those that are also 100% devoted to the sport but don’t have talent or love. Their desire to win runs deep and stops for nothing. They’re the cheaters. We find these individuals everywhere in the sporting world. Look close and you’ll find these individuals everywhere in the business world as well. It’s the unnatural man, seeking the top. There’s a place in my heart that wants to believe that most champions are clean. That they are the individuals out there busting their butts, sacrificing what it takes and being accountable for their actions or lack there of. There’s a place inside me that wants to believe that guys like Lance, that have been tested over and over, are actually clean and that he may be that sort of, true, raw athlete. And that what they say about his extra large lungs and that fact that his body doesn’t produce lactic acid like the rest of us, could be one of the reasons he was so dominant. But in the same breath, It wouldn’t surprise me one bit, if at some point in the future, Lance, now out of money, decided to write a book and list all his dirty little secrets. If this is the case, I’m sure there will be a lot of finger pointing and calling others out.
What I’d like to see, is a stronger focus on what’s currently happening in the cycling world and what’s to come in the future. Lance is done, he’s time is over and well in the past. We’re a society that is moving forward so fast, that holding onto things like this are really not worth all the trouble. And besides, who wants to get awarded a win or the yellow jersey five to ten years after the fact. It’s not like that will do anything for your career, assuming you haven’t been busted for doping as well. The fact of the matter is, there’s a good chance Lance, doped, there’s a good chance he didn’t. There’s an equally good chance that everyone he was racing with at the time was also doping. Who really cares anymore. There’s no justice in this type of justice in my opinion.
So, to those of you out there, riding and racing because you love it. Because it’s your passion. Because it consumes you and makes you a better person. To those of you out there who have survived hard times and are living stronger than ever before, KEEP IT UP. Look to the future and continue to do what you do because you are the new generation of inspiration to us all. Hero’s will continue to come and go. Rarely are they as timeless as you and I, and if for some reason they’re beyond great, someone will find a reason to bring them down. Don’t buy in to the hype, the glitz and fame. Just ride your mountain bike on really really good single track, climb mountain passes and do it in the company of best friends. Ride because you love the ride.