This blog was written just after the announcement – better, confirmation – that Lance Armstrong, like most of his contemporaries had drugged his way to victory in the Tours de France. As someone who had followed his story; the revelation, though unsurprising, indeed anticipated, still left an open, raw, feeling.
So we were living a lie then, all of us. The whole Lance Armstrong thang. Of course, it’s not the ‘Lance Armstrong thing’ of course, is it? It seems they were all in on the pop, every team, every nation, team Principals, oily rags… possibly to the very top of the sport (we shall see). The Festina Scandal of 1988 didn’t make any difference. Pantani sprinting up hills like he’s got wind behind him across the Polders of Holland time triallist, getting caught in the Giro at his moment of glory, eventually dying in his hotel room – didn’t make any difference. Athletes dying in the middle of the night as their hearts slowed to a standstill with their blood as thick as gazpacho – didn’t make any difference. No, it seems Lance and his partners just took it to a whole new level, and give him his due, did it well – 7 years of domination, pummelling, awesome rides as an individual and as team… all it seems powered by Kool Aid.
So where does it leave our memories, my memories? The year he returned from a cancer that had every right to kill him? He brought new attitude, new technology, new gear (his Time Trial helmet was like the head of the creature from the Alien movies), new swagger. I wanted him to win. To dominate. An English speaker, brushing away the cobwebs of fustiness and out-dated tradition. His mountain time trial epic on Alpe d’Huez as he sprinted past Ivan Basso. The year he almost lost, felled by a child’s musette, then slipping off his pedal to win by seconds in the final time trial against Jan ‘also on the pop’ Ulrich.
And what about Landis, and stage 17. Down and out, a proper ‘bonk’ the day before, dropping 10 minutes, to make a foolhardy attack 16 kilometres into a mountain stage… that stuck. Testosterone or no, it will be a ride that sticks in my memory. Because I can’t erase them. Those moments were real. They happened and yes, I am now disappointed, but the truth is they did happen and I watched them, right there, in the moment. I can’t go back, supplant them with something else. I can’t change the context. When Landis rode that stage, I kept on popping out of a day-long meeting like I had the runs, I had to see it, it was that gripping.
So now I have to draw a veil of guilty feeling across my mind separating the politically correctness of knowing that Armstrong is a swindler, with the other half, the devilish bit that knows how exciting it was back then and how he just raised the bar.
Or maybe there is a third way. Maybe over time my memories will fade and ‘truth’ and ‘perception’ will merge into a new reality. I can always hope can’t I?
© Morning Mister Magpie