Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Fall - Lance Armstrong's descent

News of Lance Armstrong's life-time ban from all sport should have left cycling reeling with shock. But speak to cyclists, those who know racing. Are they reeling? Are they even surprised? The die-hard fans look to their hero with unfounded Icarus belief, a hero who fought cancer and won, and then won the Tour de France and then did it again, six more times.

A man who created the Livestrong brand, the yellow wrist-bands and the cancer fighting "Lance Armstrong Foundation"

Surely such a man would never cheat, never risk his own health, never need to win at all costs. Surely such a man is heroic, a legend, almost mythical? But like so many heroes of myth and legend this very human hero was flawed.

This hero cannot be wrong and he cannot be challenged. Those who dare to speak out are threatened, bullied, sacked, ostracised, belittled and their characters are assassinated.

Then at the last minute this hero chose not to fight his corner with the USADA, he didn't want the public fight. This hero doesn't like to lose and if you don't fight you don't lose.

This hero made a uniquely French bike race a global phenomenon, awakened American millions to a sport where they might win.

This hero mixed with the politicians, the glitterati and the celebrities. A hero who preaches clean and plays dirty. A man who donates to anti-drugs development while leading his own team's drug fuelled regime. A man who helped shape the avoidance of positive tests, the systematic transfusions a culture of "risks for results". As others admit their misdeeds, face consequences, apologise and profess to turn themselves around this hero, this man can admit no wrong. For him the past is the past and it doesn't matter. He tells us his conscience is clear.

Tonight the news says otherwise.

When such a man falls, caught out by his own misguided belief, then like Icarus he falls far and he falls hard. A fall that far always ends badly!

Lance Armstrong's fall should end in the next few days. I expect he might try to take others with him.

The real tragedy for all sports would be a failure of the next generation to learn and to take a different route.

I won't be holding my breath!

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