Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
After all the rumors that have been corroborated, the stories verified and the hunches validated, Monday’s news that Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles was an exercise in the inevitable.
Some have known for more than a decade, but most of us only for a few weeks: Armstrong is a confirmed cheat, a complete fraud. It’s time we treat him as such.
I don’t even crucify Armstrong for his actual cycling sins.
“Everyone was doing it” always will be a somewhat valid, even if painfully weak, excuse for Armstrong, though it now seems evident he was a doping ringleader.
Nevertheless, everyone was doing it, so the shame has to be mitigated at least somewhat, right? For the sake of comedy, I only can hope an effort is made to identify the top clean rider in each Tour de France.
Armstrong was thought to have won. Consider that only one man stood on the Paris podium with Armstrong who has not actually been implicated in doping.
Everyone was doing it. Fine. That’s not the problem.
The problem was Armstrong’s tour de force in outrageous jerkery. It takes some serious guts to proclaim innocence and persecution as loudly and frequently as Armstrong has, all the while knowing there are dozens, or maybe even hundreds, of people out there who know without a doubt that you are lying.
It takes someone seriously messed up to play on the hopes and dreams of cancer patients the way Armstrong has. He pretended that he beat America’s most persistent and horrible disease and came back to be a better version of himself — stronger and more powerful than he had been before the diagnosis.
As it was, the very drugs he so vigorously lied about may have contributed to the growth and spread of the cancer that allowed so many to idolize him later, as reported in the Oct. 22 issue of Sports Illustrated.
Everything he said publicly on the issue — from his trashing of testers to his rants against his teammates who already had fessed up and even to his angry “take my toys and go home” refusal to fight the charges he still proclaimed as bogus in August — was calculated to trick you. It was calculated to give those in the public who bought into his Livestrong persona reason to believe. It was calculated to give his ever-shrinking group of defenders ammo with which to defend him.
Plenty of us bought into all or parts of it. I haven’t bought into the greater narrative for some time, but I looked at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency with a wary eye throughout its investigation, thanks in large part to Armstrong’s poisonous words.
Oops. They were the good guys.
In the end, however, there are so many losers, none greater than Armstrong himself.
I’ve never had anyone very close to me fight cancer, so I’ve never had to pull strength from Armstrong’s story or his foundation. But I’ve written plenty of cancer-related stories throughout the years, and if I’ve learned anything through my interactions with the afflicted, it’s that brave people are diagnosed with cancer every day and that there is more than one charity staffed with brave volunteers and employees there to help them.
There’s no reason to continue to pull strength from Armstrong’s lies.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com