Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Seriously, what interview were YOU watching?!

I  had planned on letting my last post be the only one I wrote about Lance but after watching the interview (yes it was ONE interview that Oprah broke up over 2 nights to bolster her struggling network) BOTH times they were aired each night and then hearing/dealing with the ridiculousness that followed I just had to pipe up.
I will start by saying this, the comments and opinions are ALL OVER the board and are best summed up by one's Facebook status "...well, people on Twitter are comparing Lance to a pedophile. Almost convinced that it’s impossible to have a logical conversation about this". Wow! Yup, that about sums it up. But I do think that people (being me) need to give the discussion a fair chance. Now I had to deal with some of that myself when wearing my Livestrong hoodie into work on Friday (what? It was casual Friday) and a coworker asked "how could you wear that sweatshirt now after Lance's interview the night before"? Um, the foundation has nothing to do with Lance's cycling career and has been recognized internationally for its efforts in cancer awareness. My response? How could I not?! To which another coworker replied with "because I know lots of people who succeed without cheating". Really? DO you?! Can you name anyone else in the sport of cycling that was even close to, much less on the podiums of ANY of the races in the years that Lance won the Tour de France, or even now for that fact?! But we'll get to that later…

Before even talking about what was discussed during the interview…can we just quickly talk about Lance. Did you LOOK at him. The guy that was 10 feet tall and bulletproof his entire cycling career, full of piss and vinegar…and is now graying and tired...and tired looking. The guy that people could never keep up with, on a bike or not, looked wiped out. His answers were not snapped or accusatory. The guy we saw on camera looked/acted nothing like the guy we saw win 7 Tours. He looked like a man defeated.

What he said:
He admitted to using banned substances/procedures during all seven of his Tour de France victories. In his opinion, it was not possible to win the Tour without the use of banned substances. “Not in that generation, ” he said. You know what? History has proved him right! All the top pros in cycling during that 10 year span tested positive for some kind of substance and either had titles stripped and/or served suspensions. Can we just be honest about that time in cycling and quit trying to make it go away?! Doping was the NORM in the pro peloton. Unlike in sports today where everyone says “for every 1 person that dopes there are 99 athletes that don’t”…it was the COMPLETE opposite in cycling in that decade. Lance even made reference to its normalcy referring to it as “…another step like putting air in the tires, or filling the water bottles…” He did say that “no one ever put a gun to my head and that it was my choice and I’m responsible”. He didn’t lay blame or implicate anyone else. He apologized and said "I made my decisions. They're my mistake. And I'm sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I'm sorry for that."  Lance not only apologized on numerous occasions but said that he completely understood everyone's anger and will spend the rest of his life reaching out and trying to make amends.

Lance did admit to testing positive for corticosteroids during the 1999 Tour de France. He confirmed former USPS soigneur Emma O’Reilly’s story that a conversation was had in which team officials agreed to backdate a medical certificate to make it seem as if the steroids had been prescribed for saddle sores. Lance did admit to being a bully in the case of O’Reilly, someone who he feels “got run over” in the process of all this. He confirmed some of the incidents pointed out by both Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis in their statements/books. On a side note I’d like to address these guys that people harp on Lance about “running them” over too. Tyler Hamilton reaped the benefit of the culture and doping, went on to captain his own team with a multimillion dollar contract and only after getting busted…TWICE…for doping and losing it all decided he’d “come clean” about cycling and implicate Lance and the USPS team. Floyd did the same and after getting busted at the Tour de France (which he won and was later stripped of the title), got upset that no one wanted him on their team after serving a suspension (including Lance on during his “comeback” to racing) and with no other option started revealing USPS team procedures.

Yes, during this portion of the interview it was less about his feelings about doping that it was about how it worked because of the questions from Oprah. I do think it’s very interesting that Oprah made the point of saying that while Lance didn’t tell anyone else on the team to dope or fire anyone who didn’t, couldn’t he see that because he was the team captain and he was successful, that his teammates would feel pressure to do the same? Which he acknowledged. So tell me this…if we expand that out to the WHOLE of cycling…why doesn’t Lance get the same consideration?! Even though no one had a gun to his head or told him to dope…the bulk of the pro ranks (the winning and successful members of the pro ranks mind you) were doping and Lance should’ve felt no pressure to do the same in order to stay competitive?! Just something worth pointing out I think.

There was discussion about how when the news broke, he started getting calls from sponsors…Anheuser Busch, Nike, Trek and the lot all calling to say there were pulling out. In total over the span of a couple days he lost $75 million in monies but it wasn’t until having to sit down and explain it to his son (the son who’d been defending him all along to all naysayers in daily interaction on all the social media platforms) that it hit home with Lance and he realized it had all gone too far and broke. Not just with his family but it was at that point of the interview that Lance struggled to keep his emotions in check. And people were criticizing him for that being what it took to resonate with him?! Doesn’t it normally only “hit home” with anything: drug use, stealing, bad behavior…ONLY when family or loved one is suffering pain from it for the person to finally see?!

People were also upset when Oprah asked if he should be allowed to race again and he said “yes, I don’t think I deserve to suffer the death penalty” in regards to a life time ban. First off, what do you want  him to say? No, I never want to race anything again? Get real! I appreciate the guy being honest about his drive to compete. And what he meant with the earlier comment was all those people that not only testified to having doped but also gave testimony implicating Armstrong were only given SIX MONTHS SUSPENSIONS!!! Which oh so happened to coincide with the cycling “off season”. Does that stink to anyone else?! Im not even gonna talk about the fairness of that but the precedent of the ruling has been set by the UCI, USADA and WADA but it can’t ALSO apply to Lance? He must be banned for life? We look over all the other doping to get Lance?! That’s BS. A great case in point? His lieutenant George Hincapie who raced with him on all the TDF wins, not only testified that he doped but also gave evidence against Lance and had NONE of his wins taken away NOR had the TDF record he now holds as most TDF raced taken away…are you kidding me? Bjarne Riis a Tour de France winner who later went on to be the Director Sportif for successful pro cycling squads not only DIDN’T get his name removed from the list of TDF winners but also was allowed to continue to participate in the sport after admitting he doped. Are you f’ing kidding me? And you don’t see why Lance would think he shouldn’t get a lifetime ban?

And for all of you out there that think he should, including runner Laura Felischman who said it should be “one and done” and you’re out of the sport for life…how about guys like David Millar? Here’s a guy who was hailed as the next great cyclist, tested positive for doping, served his 2 year ban and has not only returned to winning but is a beloved and outspoken member of the peloton on the subject?! There are lots of athletes that have been “popped”, served their suspensions and come back to sports successfully. So now everyone wants to just harp on the fact that once you’ve messed up, there’s no recovery. Ya, there’s a great lesson for kids. Lance could become the GREATEST ambassador for cycling, running and triathlon, sports has ever seen. He could be the beacon that “just because you’ve made mistakes, you can still turn your life around and use sport as the way to be a better you” AND inspire a whole new generation of athletes to participate.

Lance closed the interview with admitting that he mishandled the USADA investigation. “I’d do anything to go back to that day. I wouldn’t fight. I wouldn’t sue. I’d listen.” People balked at that comment. What? He’s not allowed to have hindsight? There are a few quotes that stick in my head, attributed to Ironman Champion Craig Alexander that he said while I was at his book signing in Boston recently: “…people hate Lance? Don’t hate the player, hate the game…” and “…really? All these people that talk about his cheating? So you’ve never cut a corner on a race, or false started or drafted or rode into transition a little too long? It’s all cheating!...”  and most importantly “…we have no idea what his life was like or what he had to deal with, who are we to judge?...”. And…not that I’m a religious guy in the least but I think it’s funny that people are so happy to throw the  “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” but that can’t apply here. Lance has admitted to being responsible for his own undoing. "Certainly, I'm a flawed character. I am flawed, deeply flawed" he said. His “reckless desire to win” led him down the path he chose.  He is, as is every person however, worthy of redemption. Let him race, deal with the stigma of the past on a daily basis and see what he does with it. History has judged the “doping age” in cycling so let it have a chance to judge Lance as well.

This is all posted from a guy that LOVES the sport of cycling. I consider it “my” sport. I’ve been racing since I was a kid, I’ve been lucky enough to see a number of Tour de Frances, ride on the same roads and have long discussions/dinners with pros. I can rattle off damn near every major winner of all races (big and small) since I can remember and honestly believe that if there is a heaven, its achieved looking over the front wheel pedaling as hard as possible. So to refer back to the people at the beginning of this post who questioned my hoodie choice or “know” lots of people who don’t dope…you don’t know ANYTHING about MY sport, so do me a favor and keep your uninformed opinions to yourself. The only way to fix the past in the sport is to talk about it out loud and do everything to show that people can be successful in spite of it.

Although I think its a topic that can spawn intelligent discussion, based on the people participating, for years to come I just wanted to get my thoughts out there. Lance isn't a murderer or the devil, he is a man who made mistakes and that doesn't preclude him from doing better. I'll gladly line up beside him at the next triathlon and wait for the gun to go off...

No comments:

Post a Comment