Many years ago I was heading to Tasmania for a couple of weeks, I'd be staying on my sister's fairly isolated farm in the Liffey Valley.I found myself in a book store in Melbourne looking for something to take with me to read.Picking up "It's Not About the Bike" I can remember thinking,"I've heard of this bloke,survived a pretty nasty dose of cancer and has won the Tour de France".At the time I had no interest in cycling as a sport, had only ever heard of the Tour de France,The Giro and our own Herald Sun Tour.
The book was an excellent read and I couldn't put it down,staying up till all hours and had it finished in a couple of days,bugger,what am I going to read for the rest of my stay.
So when the TDF rolled around that year it was time to tune in and see how Lance was going,I don't exactly remember the year but he's already won the race a few times.Reading this book got me interested in watching the TDF,before I would have changed channels to avoid it. L.A. owned the TDF,or thats the way it seemed to me.He had this awesome team who completely dominated proceedings.I cheered for Lance to win and thats what he did.I watched the TDF every year after that and was really disappointed when he retired.
Fast forward on a few years, after becoming frustrated with golf one of my friends suggested cycling. My first outing was quite memorable,it was hot and I was in Melbourne and we'd gone to the Kew Boulevard early in the morning.My bike was an old Malvern Star purchased brand new in the mid 80's.I was hopeless,getting passed on the hills by everyone.I smashed myself but went nowhere fast and had to lie down for about 2 hours afterward as I wasn't feeling very well.
That first experience seemed to spur me on and I've been riding now for about 4 years.The last 2 pinning a race number on quite regularly with the Wangaratta Cycling Club and the Hume Veterans CC.The more I started to mix with other cyclists,some who've been involved in the sport for many many years,I started to hear the doping stories about LA.What I also noticed was some people particularly seemed to really dislike Armstrong, whilst others worshipped him.I was probably in the camp of worshipper until about 12 months ago.Slowly more and more doping allegations against LA were surfacing and I couldn't help but think,maybe there is more to this than meets the eye.
Further on down the track and I'm not going into the whole series of events,most people know this stuff anyway.The USADA reasoned decision pretty much was the final nail in the coffin of the LA fairy tail.
Now we've had the Oprah interview and heard it from the man himself that he cheated in every one of his TDF victories,using performance enhancing drugs,transfusions etc.
The fact that he used banned drugs and transfusions is somehow not that big of a deal as it seems most TDF contenders were also doing the same thing.Of course I believe it's wrong and I'm very disappointed that I believed in something that turned out to be bull shit.And I probably feel quite foolish as in the past I'd backed Lance 100%.
The worse part is the way he treated the people who were bold enough to speak out.Even suing newspapers and ruining peoples lives when all along they were telling the truth.It's hard to reconcile this in my mind as here is a man who survived cancer (my sister in Tasmania is a Doctor and when I read to her how bad he had cancer,her comments were "it's a miracle he survived") and set up the Livestrong foundation helping raise awareness of cancer on a global scale.So it seems he has empathy for his fellow human beings so how could he be such an arsehole?
I'm not sure if I'd be riding my bike it it wasn't for Lance,nobody can answer that,not even me.My curiosity in the sport was certainly piqued by the reading of "It's not about the Bike".Maybe if golf hadn't been so frustrating I'd still be out there smashing that little white ball up the fairway (or in my case usually in the rough).My friends may have had more to do with actually getting me involved in riding and racing.I've done several things I swore black and blue I'd never do.Wearing Lycra,buying the latest carbon bling and last but not least shaving my legs,(when I read that I still wonder how it's come to this) :)
By nature I'm a pretty forgiving person and I also am a believer in what is good about the human spirit.Everyone on earth deserves the opportunity to redeem themselves from past wrongdoings.For me I still think of Armstrong as an amazing cyclist and I'm not sure about his 7 TDF victories,mainly because they didn't or couldn't award then to anybody else as most of the contenders appeared to have been doping also.
History will tell us how he'll be remembered.He made some big claims that the rest of his life will be spent trying to repair the damage he has done to the sport and the many people that got in his way.There is no doubt he is a powerful character and should he choose to embrace his own sentiments then hopefully we'll see some good come out of this tale of deception.
For me now when I roll out in the morning on a 3 hour solo ride in quiet Australian countryside I'm hoping there are better things occupying my thoughts than this sorry tale.I love to ride and would be lost without it now.I love the sport and want to believe in the current crop of amazing athletes.Past dopers should be encouraged to speak out not kicked out of the sport.Let them help by giving them the chance to own their past and not be fearful about losing what they love.