Showing posts with label Lance Armstrong. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lance Armstrong. Show all posts

Friday, January 18, 2013

Texans


A few years ago, I used to think of one of these Republican celebrities, George W Bush, as a dumb asshole. Today, I look upon his Texan mate Lance Armstrong as a clever but nasty asshole. I'm thinking above all of the despicable way in which he bullied the Irish girl Emma O'Reilly, his soigneuse (literally carer) in the US Postal team, seen here in Sestrières in 1999.


The Armstrong doping system seems to have hurt a lot of innocent and less innocent people. And it has hurt permanently the wonderful sport of competitive cycling.

POST SCRIPTUM: I'm puzzled by an interesting idea. Is it thinkable that all the chemical shit ingurgitated by Armstrong for a decade might be considered henceforth as a proven cure for testicular cancer? He appears to be in perfect health. Maybe regular dope, like Guinness, is good for you...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

US champion takes the yellow jersey

Whichever way you look at the situation, and no matter what he actually says in his much-awaited coming-out on doping condemnations (recorded yesterday), there's no way in the world that Lance Armstrong can emerge from this sordid affair, in a few days' time, as a winner. The overall victory will be snatched by a veteran pedaler: Oprah Winfrey.


This all-time champion has already reached the summits of media mountains in first position on countless occasions. But this time, she has no doubt performed in a more spectacular fashion than in any of her long list of previous talk-show achievements and victories. Little Lance will look like a feeble child hiding in the folds of his mother's skirts, ruffled by gusts of icy wind blowing across the treacherous alpine slopes, where the slightest miscalculation of his trajectory could hurtle him down to his death.

French commentators have often borrowed a hackneyed theme: "This stage cannot possibly enable any particular rider to win the Tour de France... but it's a stage that could cause several riders to lose the Tour." Never has this observation been more pertinent, in Armstrong's career, than today. Oprah, encouraged by her hordes of fans, needs only to complete the course with a minimum display of natural aggressiveness in order to score maximum points, and secure the overall victory. Lance, on the other hand, could be smitten by dozens of afflictions, or even totally demolished by a grave accident, and carted away half-dead in an ambulance.

But this encounter will not in fact resemble a sporting competition. It will be more like the austere ritual of a bullfight. And don't expect Oprah Winfrey to be the bull.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dark age of cycling

I call it the Darkstrong epoch.


Others will evoke lies, cheating and bullying. Funnily enough, we cycling enthusiasts and observers in France thought it fabulous, at the time, that a New World offspring could arrive here as a conqueror.

People are confused, particularly those of us who admired Armstrong immensely. Some of us (such as Laurent Jalabert, manager of the French team) say that Armstrong was a great champion in spite of his doping... but that argument doesn't stand up to criticism. Others evoke his cancer combat... but is cheating a valid path to survival?

Others (including myself) are concerned primarily by the survival of professional cycling in general, and the Tour de France in particular. I'm convinced that they're bigger than a stealthy guy from Texas, a Republican buddy of George W Bush.

The most surrealist aspect of this whole affair is that Lance Armstrong persists in claiming that his critics have got things wrong. The situation is binary: Either the critics are totally off-target, or Armstrong is an evil liar (with a jail cell on the horizon).

Cycling is such a fabulous sport that it's a terrible shame that our horizons have sunken to this abysmal level.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's not about the bout with cancer

Up until the bitter end, I persisted in believing that Lance Armstrong was an extraordinary athlete and a morally upright gentleman, and that all attempts to accuse him of cheating and lying were doomed.


Alas, massive evidence—above all, from Lance's fellow-members of the US Postal team—forces me to change my mind. Abruptly, I've ceased to be a believer in The Boss.


In the context of this scandal, the most pertinent question today concerns the attitude of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) in Switzerland, which must react within 21 days to the charges against Armstrong formulated by USADA (the US anti-doping agency). Observers have often had the impression that the UCI has hoped continually, for the sake of world cycling, that Armstrong would succeed in keeping his head above water. But it will be hard for the UCI to deny the grave findings revealed in the bulky USADA report.

Meanwhile, as Armstrong continues to refuse to "come out" with any kind of mea culpa, his situation is becoming more and more isolated, if not pathetic. Does he consider that his life-saving role as a fundraiser within his Livestrong organization precludes him from stepping down into the dirty arena with former mates such as George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton, Frankie Andreu and Jonathan Vaughters?

BREAKING NEWS: In a comment attached to this blog post, I mentioned briefly the fact that members of Australia's GreenEdge team appear to be totally clean. Alas, the situation might not be as simple as that. Click here to see an article in The Sydney Morning Herald indicating the possible involvement in the Armstrong saga of Matthew White, sports director of Orica-GreenEdge. Click here to see a more recent article—which appears to have been published on Saturday, October 13, in Sydney—indicating that White has admitted his personal involvement in dope, and resigned from his professional cycling jobs.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Perfectionist punishment

The US Anti-Doping Agency's decision to erase the career of Lance Armstrong is a blatant case of perfectionism. I'm using this term in a pejorative sense, designating a Kafkaesque situation in which holier-than-thou bureaucrats have gone to absurdly extreme lengths in the hope of installing their lily-white conceptions of what professional cycling should be all about.

Lance Armstrong, August 20, 2009 – photo Stefan Wermuth, Reuters

In punishing an outstanding sportsman for alleged faults committed long ago (if indeed they were truly committed), USADA is harming gravely the sport of cycling in general and the Tour de France in particular. For countless admirers in the USA and Europe, Armstrong will remain a hero because of the amazing story of his combat against cancer, and the way in which he happened to pick up no less than 7 yellow jerseys in the wake of that combat. The world of professional cycling has been making enormous efforts to wipe out the use of illicit pharmaceutical products and doping strategies. And the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) will be shooting itself in the foot if it accepts the conclusions (as it is more-or-less obliged to do) of the US anti-doping organization. Hoping to clean up cycling by punishing Armstrong retrospectively is an idiotic case of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Should we listen to Landis?

Since Floyd Landis lied resolutely for four years about his involvement in dope, should we suddenly believe him today when he alleges that other cyclists were fueled by chemical products? When asked this obvious rhetorical question, Landis himself says, somewhat curiously, that he no longer really cares whether people believe him or not.

After seeing a revealing interview on French TV yesterday, I would say that, in my opinion, there's maybe a 20% chance that he's providing the sporting world with explosive facts, and four chances out of five that he's a sick nut case. But, whatever the likelihood of their turning out to be fables (which might never be proved or disproved), his allegations are so enormous that it's hardly surprising that they're being followed up earnestly, particularly in the context of Lance Armstrong, by US dope authorities.

Some of the tales told by Landis have a surrealist flavor, like events in a poorly-conceived script for a crime movie. For example, he explained that blood for later transfusions was collected from riders before the start of the Tour de France, and then stored in Floyd's refrigerator at his country house in Spain. He claimed that the only danger was, not so much the possibility of an intruder discovering all this blood in the kitchen, but rather an electricity outage. Then there's his description of what would happen in the team's bus prior to the start of a race.

Now, I've often observed at close range the huge buses used by professional cycling teams, parked in an enclosure near the starting line of a stage. It's a fact that such a vehicle—with smoked-glass windows and drawn curtains—looks like an opaque impenetrable fortress: the mobile out-of-bounds territory of a foreign embassy, with guards at the door. The scene described by Landis, evoking a military hospital, is truly grotesque. All nine members of the team would sit down and receive a transfusion, lasting a quarter of an hour, of their own blood. This vision of nine athletes, lounging simultaneously on reclining chairs while blood is dripping into their bodies from suspended plastic bags, is quite nightmarish. Landis, retrospectively, considers that this was business as usual. "It was routine, there was no debate to be made, we all knew we would do it. It was part of the job, it was a trivial thing." Frankly, I'm less inclined than ever to imagine that scene as real.

Later on in the interview, Landis makes huge accusations concerning specific individuals. "In the peloton, everyone knows that Pat McQuaid, Hein Verbruggen and other leaders of the UCI [Union Cycliste Internationale] protected some riders and not others during the past 20 years. It was their way of manipulating and creating stars."

We used to see photos of Floyd Landis in the context of his Pennsylvania village of Farmersville, comprised of 200 God-fearing souls who practised the archaic Mennonite religion.

Many observers would say that the religious upbringing of Floyd Landis could not possibly have anything to do with his subsequent behavior in the world of professional cycling.

Others would claim that this upbringing would have normally instilled in him a respect for moral principles and righteousness. My own opinions on communities of this kind (about which I know little) are that there are loose screws somewhere along the line, and that you never know what might happen.

For example, there's a custom known as Rumspringa, concerning Amish and Mennonite youths, which might be described roughly as "fucking around for a few years while you're deciding what to do next, prior to making up your mind about whether you should calm down and enter the fold". In theory, it's not a bad idea… but the effectiveness of this technique depends on how far you run amok, for how long, and with what possibly disastrous consequences. I've often wondered whether Floyd Landis might have descended into a protracted state of Rumspringa, from which he doesn't know how to emerge.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fabulous Armstrong

I believe that this is my 1500th Antipodes post.

Many Tour de France cyclists (who provide France with a welcome breath of fresh air after the disastrous soccer events) deserve to be thought of as fabulous. I might have applied this term to Mark Cavendish (what an emotional "bad boy" in tears), to Sylvain Chavanel (the French rider who has just won a second stage, after recuperating from an accident), or to Cadel Evans (whom we're all admiring and inspecting closely). The cyclists of the Tour de France are participating in a unique sporting event. The landscapes and architectural heritage of France, displayed constantly by the helicopter cameras, are equally fabulous.

In this context, Lance Armstrong has just flashed the following moving image on Twitter:

Always, Lance gets to the essential...

BREAKING NEWS: After Sunday's stage, disastrous for Lance (he hit the macadam three times), he sent out a despondent twitter:

When it rains it pours I guess.. Today was not my day needless to say. Quite banged but gonna hang in here and enjoy my last 2 weeks.

In a way, I find it preferable to see him knocked out by sheer bad luck rather than succumbing to a duel with Contador. As for Evans, the French press is talking of a feeling of déjà vu.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cycling tragedy

I'm applying the word "tragedy" to the personal case of Floyd Landis. After getting over the initial shock of his turnabout, I'm left with a puzzling query: What has caused Landis to make his confession, nearly four years after his personal eviction from the Tour? Although I don't claim to have any firm answers to this question, I believe that we're confronted with an individual who's probably in a dark state of both anguish and anger.

I've heard (without being able to verify such things) that Landis has lost his fortune, his home and his family while trying to prove that he was unjustly deprived of his Tour title. Meanwhile, last year, he saw the organizers of the Tour de France invite his old teammate Lance Armstrong back into the legendary race. Not only is Armstrong present as a welcome guest, but he's surrounded by an aura of veneration through his sporting determination and longevity, and through his work in the domain of cancer care. To say the least, Landis is surely bitter, and an observer might well imagine that yesterday's sensational turnabout was inspired by rage and revenge.

Up until the last moment, the organizers of the Tour de France will retain the right to exclude certain riders, or even an entire team, from the event that starts on 3 July 2010. Decisions at that level will surely represent the moment of verity of this whole affair, because the organizers probably have a pretty good idea, by now, of where the truth lies… and where the future interests of the Tour de France lie. If the Tour organizers say it's OK for Armstrong to participate, then the Texan will be permanently vindicated, and Landis will be cast more deeply than ever into outer darkness.

Maybe, though, I should not have included the word "permanently" in that last sentence. The evolution of technical knowledge and experience about doping and relevant testing is advancing in ways that remind me (metaphorically) of the progress of DNA tests in forensic medicine. If physiologists have the impression that certain situations still remain suspicious, they'll certainly retain the urine and blood samples while science and technology strive to catch up with the breakaway bunch.

For Armstrong, yesterday was an eventful day, in more ways than one:



The latest news is that he didn't break any bones in this crash in California.

This morning, I came upon a interesting American viewpoint on the Landis revelations: an article by Michael Rosenberg entitled Latest accusation makes it hard not to believe Lance Armstrong doped up [display]. The journalist concludes: The American people seem to believe Lance Armstrong is a cancer-fighting activist instead of another athlete who used performance-enhancing drugs. But you know what? He might be both.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bitter champagne

On the eve of the Tour de France in 2006, there was a vast dope-oriented cleanup. The organizers published a short list of undesirable riders: the Italian Ivan Basso, the Spaniards Francesco Mancebo and Oscar Sevilla, and the German Jan Ullrich. Finally, the Tour was won by an American, Floyd Landis, who seemed to be as clean as they come. Wasn't he brought up in a pious Mennonite environment in a rural village named Farmersville in Pennsylvania?

The champagne had a bitter aftertaste. Tests revealed that Landis had been doped with EPO, and he was stripped of his victory in the Tour.

A report in The Wall Street Journal has just revealed that Landis has finally admitted that he used dope. He also made accusations concerning former teammates Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie. This long-overdue mea culpa is surely going to stir up a lot of shit during the weeks leading up to the forthcoming Tour de France.

People interested in the case of Armstrong should consult a lengthy in-depth interview (that dates from 2009) with the Australian EPO specialist Michael Ashenden, who gives me the impression that he knows what he's talking about. [Click the photo to access this interview.]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lance Armstrong's team

This is an amusing presentation of Lance Armstrong's new RadioShack team:



Lance has just arrived in South Australia to start preparing for the forthcoming Tour Down Under. He's constantly active in the Twitter arena, where his address is lancearmstrong.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mission: Not necessarily impossible

The latest news is that Lance Armstrong, after his comeback in the Down Under Tour in January, will be riding in next year's Giro d'Italia, giving him a crucial test before his attempt to win an eighth Tour de France title.

"I'm so excited to be coming to the 2009 Giro. I raced a long time professionally and never did the Giro. It was one of my biggest regrets. I'm going to be able to erase that regret. Who knows, maybe with a good result."

Armstrong's comeback will focus attention upon his global campaign to fight cancer: a disease he survived before his seven straight victories in the Tour de France. That dimension of his mission, at least, will be surely accomplished. As for the rest: Does it matter? Yes, it does... but in ways that transcend everyday sport. Lance Armstrong has become a symbol, and the world is looking henceforth at the human being, in all his profundity, not merely at the way he pedals on the slopes. This change of outlook indicates—if it weren't already obvious—that we're in the presence of an extraordinary individual.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Strong arms

French stand-up comedians are intrigued by this familiar surname. "Not only did he win the Tour de France seven times. He set foot on the Moon, and he plays a fabulous jazz trumpet."

Lance Armstrong exerts the same kind of New World fascination upon ordinary French people as the powerful US saviors of Normandy in 1944. When SuperMan moves in to your rural towns and villages, you simply sit down by the roadside, in awe, and watch the action.

In France, cycling enthusiasts are stunned by the announcement of Armstrong's daring comeback. But you might say that the role of a SuperMan is to be amazing. From now on, let's turn our attention above all to Armstrong's marvelous militancy in the fight against cancer, and to his encouragement of clean dope-free cycling. He is an exceptional sporting personality and an impressive human being who demands our respect and attention.