Lance Armstrong admitted to Oprah – and her larger-than-usual viewership – that he doped through 2005. And some people blinded by hero worship had the nerve to act surprised. Maybe not as many as would have two years ago, but still there were some.
I’ve said the same thing all along. I’m convinced that anyone near him in the standings also doped.
And you know what? I. Don’t. Care.
It helps that I was never a Lance-O-Phile. Something about him always bothered me. I always preferred Greg Lemond – and Marco Pantani. But doping or not, there are things about him that you will never, ever be able to take away from him.
First, up Lance Armstrong had an excellent on-bike code of conduct. If you’re not into cycling, you might not remember how Jan Ullrich – one of Armstrong’s best adversaries at the time – crashed. What did Armstrong do? He slowed down. He waited for Ullrich. When Ullrich was back in position, the battle resumed. This happened twice – in 2001 and 2003. Ullrich also waited for Armstrong after he crashed.
As Phil Liggett said, you don’t attack a fallen rider. It’s one of many unwritten rules of conduct in the pro cycling peloton.
And second … no matter what pharmaceuticals are involved, pro cyclists have mind-boggling skills. There is no injection that can make you able to corner at 60 miles per hour. No treatment can give you the balance to ride handlebar-to-handlebar with 120 other riders – with your hands off the handlebars. I once heard a story about Bob Roll stripping naked while riding in the middle of the pack – and putting his kit back on before race officials caught him. I wasn’t able to confirm it … but can you imagine having the bike-handling skills to do that while riding at a high pace? I sure can’t!
There’s only one way to become so facile on a bike: Love it, ride it all the time, be willing to get hurt for it.
And I never believed any of the denials from any of the racers for a millisecond. Not one. So the Lance Armstrong confession changes nothing for me.
And no matter how little I liked him, how many times he lied, what cancer survivors he let down or who he intimidated to stay silent … I can’t say Lance Armstrong is not, or was not, an incredible racer.