Mud does stick, it seems. Image: Getty Images Europe.
I probably would never have followed Lance Armstrong’s career, or at least I would have only taken a vague interest in it, if my Dad hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer in 2004. That was the summer when Armstrong killed it at the Tour De France, winning six stages as well as the whole race, his sixth of seven.
All after recovering from stage three testicular cancer.
Image: Getty Images Europe.
I read all his books several times after that, presumably seeking some kind of guidance in my own situation, even if it was just the vicarious comfort that a terminal diagnosis does not always have to be the end. You’d be surprised how you cling onto stuff like that when the world is threatening to rip you in half.
My Dad didn’t survive, and if the reports are to be believed, Armstrong presided over one of the “biggest doping conspiracy in sporting history“, so I guess I’m one of those people whom the rising media frenzy are describing as having been “cheated” by his deceit. They’re entitled to their view, of course, but I have to say, it isn’t one I share at all.
The evidence presented in the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s report tells me in no uncertain terms that I fell for a carefully constructed story, that Armstrong’s survival and subsequent elevation to hero status was a work of fiction.
Alright. So I believed in a story. It was a good story. It helped me at a time when there was nothing else to cling onto, when hope, that vague intangible that hangs around our lives and we only notice when it’s gone, had well and truly left the building. I don’t feel any anger towards Armstrong for not turning out to be the man I believed him to be back then. Why should I? He survived cancer. I read his book. It was a story that helped me through one of the worst things that happened to me in my life so far.
We’ve learned recently that people aren’t always what they seem to be. But there are gradations of what they choose to do with the cipher they’ve created and for me, Armstrong’s work with and desire to help people with cancer overshadows the sins he apparently committed to do so.
This might sound odd if you read my work regularly, as you’ll know I’m a terrible cynic. Sometimes though, even the biggest cynic in the world needs something to believe in.