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The Tale of Lance Armstrong.

The Tale of Lance Armstrong.

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The Tale of Lance Armstrong.

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I bought the books, I bought the Livestrong concept and I bought the man.

To find out that you have been lied to so unashamedly makes any defence of Armstrong indefensible.

When your sporting heroes turn out to be mere mortals who succumb to the pressures of trying to win at all costs by using performance enhancing drugs, what example does that set to society in general?

When the greedy MP's were exposed for having their snouts in the expenses troughs no one was really surprised at what had been going on.

Maybe you were surprised at the scale of some MP's red neck self-serving greed but in general you have become accustomed to politicians lying. It is what they do to keep themselves in powerful positions.

They say one thing to get themselves in office and then another when they discover that they will be unable to keep their promises to the electorate – you and me. We have come to expect it.

But Lance Armstrong?

This is another type of lying altogether. This goes beyond the boundaries of common decency and how far one man will go to write his name in the record books.

This morning I feel betrayed. The weight of evidence against Armstrong is overwhelming and it is quite clear that the only reason he "gave up" fighting the charges was because he knew that he wouldn't be able to refute the allegations in court. The cat was out of the bag. The syringe had been plunged, the charade exposed.

I keep Armstrong's books in close proximity in my office. At least they are closer on the shelf than Bobby Robson's autobiography. That kind decent man who so bravely fought his own battle with cancer.

The bookshelf order will now have to be rearranged. But I have still read and absorbed Armstrong's lies on how his performance was increased by altitude training and single minded determination to train harder, faster and longer than anyone else.

I have ridden my bike and imagined I was Armstrong passing Ulrich as I was ascending a steep hill. It is what you do when you love sport. You ape your heroes in the knowledge that they have made more sacrifices than you will ever make to be successful in their chosen profession.

On page 81 of "Every second counts"

"Anyone who thought I would go through four cycles of chemo just to risk my life by taking EPO was crazy. It was one thing to maximise performance, or explore a pharmacological gray zone. It was another to court death.

I practised another, more natural way to oxygenate my blood, and that was to train or live at altitude"

This is what hurts the most. The knowledge that a naïve and gullible sports fan can defend his hero at dinner parties, at the water cooler and on the road. Only to be shown that he was wrong all along and Armstrong was pulling off the sporting heist equivalent to the Brinks Mat robbery.

What now for the sporting unlegend and the seven tour titles. The pots of cash earned by deceit and sleight of hand?

What's the point in stripping it all away?

The races were won. Armstrong drank in the adulation and acclaim as he stood atop the podium and glorified in his superhuman achievements. Those moments will live in the memory of all those who were there at the time and not least by Armstrong himself. You cannot take those memories away.

The race is done. The sporting spectacle is over. What's the point in rewriting the history books? It is all academic.

For those who came second, third or fourth in a race against Armstrong they can't get that magic moment back by being promoted to a higher medal position. And what if the second place or third place finisher was also doping?

In the USADA report a little publicised paragraph:

"Twenty of the twenty-one podium finishers in the Tour de France from 1999 through 2005 have been directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations or exceeding the UCI haematocrit threshold. Of the forty-five podium finishes during the time period between 1996 and 2010, thirty-six were by riders similarly tainted by doping."

So what are you going to do? Demote every rider who admitted to doping? You'd have nothing left because even though Armstrong is the highest profile casualty in all this it's common knowledge now that doping was prolific throughout the peloton.

The results should stand. Stripping people of medals that they won years ago is a futile exercise. Nobody remembers who came second or third or fourth and should have had a higher placing if it wasn't for a drugs cheat above them. Retrospectively dishing out these "punishments" is a waste of time.

Instead USADA should be looking closer to home if they want to channel their energies and have something good come out of all this. The begging question is how did Lance Armstrong manage to get away with doping for all those years and pass so many tests?

The answer is of course that the testing procedure was wholly inadequate and easy to manipulate. You were unlucky if you got caught and Armstrong had the best network of enablers to be able to continually dodge the bullet.

More effort and money must be put into the anti-doping and anti-drug movement. It is the only answer. Playing catch up with the drugs cheats is an unacceptable position to be in and more attention should be focused on how badly the drugs testing procedures let everybody down rather than focusing on the individuals who managed to get away with it for so long.

The Armstrong name is now tainted with the "drugs cheat" tag but the individual has done so much work in his efforts to better the lives of people through his cancer fund raising and the Livestrong foundation that it would be wrong to pillory the man for being human.

If, as it seems to have transpired, Armstrong has perjured himself in court then unless he "comes clean" and apologises then it is likely that he will face charges. He may face charges whether he apologises or not for that matter. But he needs to drop the denial façade before he loses any shreds left of his human decency.

That Nike is standing by their man speaks volumes for the amounts of cash involved in sports branding. They did the same with Tiger Woods after his extra marital dalliances so it's no surprise there. It just reinforces the idea that trawling through the record books with tippex and a red pen is not the answer.

The sooner Armstrong drops the pantomime act the better. Then we can get on with what really matters – rooting out drugs cheats in the here and now.

 

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