Did you miss Lance Armstrong’s confession? Here it is.

From the UK Telegraph. Lance Armstrong.

When the USADA doping investigation that has taken down Lance Armstrong first went public with its findings, Armstrong remained defiant, claiming his innocence in never having failed a drug test in all those years of cycling.

That is a mystery, in some respects. But the curtain on that seeming contradiction was pulled back somewhat by what Armstrong said in his own defense:

“I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours. We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront. There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that.”

Admirable in its forceful defense of his victories, Armstrong’s statement still stops short of saying he was truly innocent of doping. And that, in the context of all the evidence now emerging in full context of teammates confessing and accepting bans and possible other punishments for their sins, amounts to a confession by Armstrong as well.

He is right in saying he knows who won those seven Tours. No one else could beat him. Not even if they doped as well.

His teammates also know who won those seven Tours. Because many of them had to dope simply to keep up and provide support to Lance Armstrong. Otherwise they were kicked off the team.

His competitors know who won those seven Tours as well. Many of them were convicted of doping as well. The era in which Armstrong was competing was rife with other dopers. Everyone in the peloton knew it, which is why Armstrong goes on to say, “We all raced together.”

In other words, we were all doping. So the playing field, though illegally steeped by doping, was essentially level.

Only Lance was the best doper of them all. And being the eminent controlling personality he is reputed to be, he was able to maintain the ruse against all investigations. In fact, there are hints of evidence that many in the cycling world, at the UCI and other organizations, saw Lance and the excitement he created as a money machine and a vital promoter of cycling as a product. Lance fed the sponsors of all those teams.

Armstrong goes on to chronicle the difficulty of racing the Tour de France. No one questions that aspect of his confession, for sure. Three weeks of racing. Over difficult roads, some narrow, some broad, many windblown and rough. It takes one tough soul to navigate all that and finish first. Lance was the best at it. Truly it is hard to take that away from him. There is a chance that doping isn’t even all that helpful in many respects of racing the Tour de France.

Doping doesn’t keep you from crashing, as we saw in Armstrong’s comeback attempts. He did finish 3rd his first time back. The second time around in his comeback was a total disaster. Armstrong wound up on the deck with a deep cut below his eye. The champion was suddenly vulnerable. But he raced on because, in his own words, he was racing for a different purpose than winning.

One cannot doubt that type of resolve. To ride on when victory is out of reach, especially for a distinct champion like Lance Armstrong, is truly a sign of commitment to some other cause. A perhaps higher cause than personal victory. That is the confusing part of the Armstrong story. His confession continues to elucidate that complexity.

“There were no shortcuts,” he insists. Well, some would say that doping is a shortcut to victory, in some sense. But Armstrong is talking about the fact that he rode all those miles in training to prepare for the Tour. You really can’t fake that. You can’t take a typical Category 1 cyclist who wins races, dope him up and throw him on the Tour course and expect a victory.

Of course talented cyclists continue to come along every year. An exciting new crop of riders like Tejay van Garderen and Peter Sagan, Chris Froome and Matthew Busche (of Armstrong’s own Radio Shack team) have made cycling interesting in a whole new way. The sport is actually more fascinating when more than one cyclist has a chance to win.

Because let’s admit it, last year’s Tour was a workmanlike effort by Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins. The race fairly failed to inspire. No one could break away from the Team Sky juggernaut, and it became a mechanical slog. Sports fans want drama, and conflict. We’ll see what next year’s Tour brings…

That is not to say it was easy for Wiggins. Far from it. Wiggins still had to protect himself, as did his teammates, from calamity. That is always the risk in stage races like the Tour. Every day is literally a calamity waiting to happen. The Tour a few years ago had some of the craziest, insane crashes ever seen in the race. Johnny Hoogerland wound up thrown through the air and shredded by a barbed wire fence. Yet he rode to the finish with his torn up ass hanging out of his kit and went on to win a stage that year, if memory serves.

Cycling is literally an insane sport in some ways. Racing down mountain descents is the most irrational act in the entire scenario of professional sports. There is no cushion or margin of safety. Lance Armstrong was once forced to ditch the road and ride across a mountain meadow, rejoining the race after cutting off a hairpin turn. No one accused him of taking a shortcut. So he was both literally and rhetorically correct in his statement about the difficulties of his victories.

Facts like those do obscure the supposed advantage of doping, particularly when everyone else does it. The cycling magazine Velo even conducted analysis of the Tour results the last 10 years and it can now be seen that the results have tightened among the leaders. No more 4-minute victories. Yet the cyclists who competed said the peloton was more dangerous to ride because the so-called level playing field meant that more riders were contending for positions at the front, where riding is safest. Ironically, that may be contributing to an increase in crashes. Some riders suggested the race needs to cut down the number of teams entered.

That’s what Armstrong means by saying “there was no special treatment.” Professional bike racers are a badass bunch of elbow-throwing, bike-leaning and curse-word-throwing zealots who don’t take crap from anyone. Armstrong reportedly was the strongest of all patrons, the one rider in the pack who does not tolerate abuse or dissent among the ranks. So we might question, given his 7-year reign, whether that sort of authority does not constitute “special treatment.” But it is special treatment you have to earn.

Armstrong did ride the same courses as everyone else. The same fierce winds off the northern coast. The same rolling hills and flat out pace lines on sprint stages. Then the mountains. Those horrid climbs where the legs beg to stop, and the baked minds of cyclists competing in hundred-degree heat or stunning cold must transcend all messages from the body to quit. Armstrong did it all better than anyone, seven times over.

He is right in calling it the “toughest even in the world, where the strongest man wins.” He was the strongest man among strong men who were all in on the doping game. And that means “all in” as a gambler as well. Everyone who rode with the help of doping was taking a gamble they would not get caught. Yet many did, and served sentences and bans for their transgressions as a result. Armstrong’s own teammates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton tried to come clean when they got caught, and then tried to implicate Armstrong as the head of the culture that favored doping for success. Armstrong attacked those men for their confessions, threatening them or questioning their character. These were very public confessions and accusations being made. And that’s not the way Lance Armstrong is used to playing the game.

So Lance Armstrong is correct in saying of the nature of his Tour victories, “Nobody can ever change that.” What’s done is done. He rode well and he won. He also apparently doped along with the rest of the world and that can’t be changed either.

Armstrong at a Livestrong appearance.

And while most of us missed it, he did confess, in so many words. His confession, like so many mea culpas in sport, politics and religion, fell a little short of direct honesty. But its considerable scope and attribution do not dissolve its confessional nature.

In the end, Lance Armstrong is being honest about his dishonesty. That is likely the most we will get out of this proud man who has done so much for cycling even though he cheated along with the rest of the world.

He has done even more for the challenging plight of cancer patients worldwide the the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Livestrong, the highly active and effective education and assistance organization that delivers key resources and advice to cancer patients and their caregivers. So that is the balance in judgment many are being called to weigh. Which of his achievements is most important?

He has ridden the hard road bringing attention to cancer as a medical and social issue, touching the world of politics and economics as a result. Yet it can be said: men and women like Lance Armstrong in many ways do not live in the same world as the rest of us. They take on great challenges and accept great risks as a result. Sometimes, they fall.

That is clear from the examples of so many other heroes who have proven to be frail in their demonstrable determination. Tiger Woods. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Bill Clinton and a host of other public personalities in all walks of life. All whose enormous feats and contributions add to our imaginations, but are also doomed at times to fail us.

That is what Lance Armstrong said in his confessional statement. Even in success many are doomed to fail, and the world works in strange and often corrupt ways. That is the ruse we all abide, to believe in some things human or magical.

That is not to say that no one achieves good or exceeds our expectations without cheating, just that it is far more commonplace than we like to think. The chieftains of wealth and corporate success have let us down repeatedly over the decades, bringing on recessions and even a Depression with their excess greed. The entire world is at risk from human activity, pollution and extraction just from the last 100 years.

But Lance Armstrong is right. We all breathe the same air. None of us gets special treatment in the end. It is not so clear whether we all play by the same rules. The last economic recession has proven that may not be the case.

What we can learn from Lance Armstrong’s confession is just as important as what we can learn from his failures and successes as a human being. It is important to read between the lines, examine the character and intent of those we choose to idolize, and not be surprised if we pull back the curtain to find out that the people we lionize as gods are in fact so human it is stunning to behold.

That is why most people missed the Lance Armstrong confession. We want to continue to believe in the gods rather than accept their human nature. That is the human condition. Ever has been. Ever will be.

About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and genesisfix.wordpress.com Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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1 Response to Did you miss Lance Armstrong’s confession? Here it is.

  1. Pingback: Dick Cheney’s confession about what really tortures him | Genesisfix's Blog

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