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H.I.V.E by Mark Walden

Count your books with me! Mwoarh!

Count your books with me! Mwoarh!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Let down by Lance

I have always been a massive fan of cycling and love watching the Tour de France. I was a big fan of Lance Armstrong-coming back from cancer to win 7 Tour de France titles seemed like such an amazing thing. I frowned at the doubters, tutted at his accusers and defended him to anyone who would listen. He was my hero. Oh how let down I am to finally know the truth about him. A drug cheat. In hindsight I guess we were naive to want to believe he was a great champion when so many people were accusing him. But is it so wrong to want to believe in what we think is a great athlete? We want to believe that fairytale story is true and when we discover that it is all a lie, it is devastating.
   I didn't want to believe it even when the drug people banned him, even when he was stripped of his titles. I stubbornly would not condemn him, saying 'he has never failed a drugs test. How can they ban him when he never failed a drugs test?' Even when I reviewed the evidence released by that inquiry, I didn't like it. I wanted to find excuses for it that meant he was clean. I laugh at myself now for wanting my hero to still be a hero to me.
   The seeds of doubt only landed on me when I heard that current Tour de France riders had admitted when questioned that they doped with Armstrong. This meant they were banned and their contracts terminated by their cycling teams. I started to think that they wouldn't lie about doping with him in the past, knowing it was going to shock their fans and cost them their career. These guys had too much to lose to lie. So I finally sighed and decided that he was probably guilty. What a let down that was. All those who named him were well known riders and I was shocked to see who they were.
   I started to wonder if anyone in the Tour de France was really clean. When I watch the race this year, will I be watching a great performance by someone on a stage and thinking 'is he doping?' Probably. I doubt I will feel the same about the sport ever again.
   So how could it happen? When I was defending Armstrong I was thinking that dopers hid in quiet rooms to inject their drugs and the rest of the team knew nothing about it. Just a cheat and a shady doctor doing it on the sly. Oh how wrong I was. When I read the book by David Millar, I was horrified by how blatant the cheats were. Everyone knew about it. Dopers and clean guys shared rooms in hotels and each night the dope arrived at the hotel room, delivered by team doctors. I had always sneered at David Millar for being a doper who was now speaking out against drugs, calling him a hypocrite but when I read the book I realised how hard it was to say no for a young guy, the new boy on the team. Pressure from the team telling him if he wants a new contract and more money he needs to finish on more podiums, other riders congratulating him on finishing about 24 saying he was the first clean rider to finish...how must that have felt to him? All his talent and hard work and was getting beaten every day by cheats. They recovered from injury quicker, they weren't tired after a hard day in the mountains like he was and there was nobody in the team he could turn to for advice because they were all in on the doping plan. I can understand how he was gradually sucked into it. He stands as an anti drug man now so that others in his position DO have someone to turn to for help and advice so I do respect him now. I feel sorry for those sucked into doping who don't really want to do it.
   I feel no sympathy for teams like US Postal who set up systems to cheat their way to glory. To cheats who do it because they want to be admired.
   I feel nothing but contempt for Lance. So excuse me while I put my DVDs, magazines and books about the cheat in a bag for the charity shop.

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