Allegedly, during his time as the world’s greatest endurance road racer, Lance Armstrong had more dope inside him than Charlie Sheen’s man-bag. So, we can now safely consign his seven Tour de France victories to the dustbin of history and award them to the riders who finished second behind Armstrong. Oh, sorry, but those guys have since been found guilty of doping themselves. Never mind, lets go for the guys who finished third. Slight problem there also. Surely not those guys as well? Actually, yes. Well, is there anyone who was racing in that period who wasn’t doped? Apparently not, According to Tyler Hamilton, Armstrong’s erstwhile compatriot in the USPS team. In his recently published self expose, Hamilton speaks of virtually universal drug cheating during the period of Armstrong’s ascendancy!
Naturally, we can’t condone doping but we should still marvel at the achievements of Armstrong in recovering from testicular cancer and winning one of the most tortuous endurance sporting events known to man a miraculous seven times. Given that everyone was taking drugs didn’t that actually provide the level playing field we all advocate? Who would have won had none of the riders taken any drugs? Probably Lance Armstrong. I know, for example, that there is no amount of drugs you could inject into me that would have enabled me to take part in such an event, let alone win it. Irrespective of any skulduggery Armstrong was an extraordinary athlete.
We need to understand that the type of personality able to train for 70 hours a week and have virtually no life outside of the sport can be easy prey to someone offering a short cut to victory, to glory. Professional sportsmen and women are, almost by definition, on the edge of OCD and to succeed at the level at which they compete they may need to be. When Lasse Viren became only the fourth man to win gold medals for both the 5000m and 10000m in the 1972 Munich Olympics (Mo Farah has just become the fifth) there were serious accusations of blood doping. Modern testing methods may have uncovered that the legendary Finn was, in fact, cheating. Of course, we will never know, the contemporary tests proved negative, just as all of Armstrong’s tests have done, by the way – and Viren remains a legend.
Armstrong was an extraordinary athlete who succumbed to the worst excesses of his own competitive obsession. Hero to zero? Possibly. Obsessive, flawed human being? Probably. The biggest fraud in sport? Maybe. Someone who competed within a deeply flawed sporting environment and failed to be the one who stood against it? Definitely. I’d like to think that I would have had the integrity and bravery of Christophe Bassons, the guy who stood out, but I’m not sure and that’s why I find it difficult to judge.
THIS WEEK’S ARTICLES:
CHRIS EATON (ICSS): GLOBAL STRATEGIES TO RESCUE THE INTEGRITY OF FOOTBALL
DELROY ALEXANDER: TIME FOR A “ROBERTS RULE”
ROGAN TAYLOR: OLD FOOTBALL IN THE NEW WORLD
KEIR RADNEDGE: BIRTHDAY TIME
Dr Chris Brady is a visiting professor at Salford University’s Business School.
The views of our regular columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.