My Thoughts on the Lance & Oprah Interview
At least one statement that Lance Armstrong made last night in his interview with Oprah was true. There was no way that he could have won his 7 titles without doping. In all honesty, no one could have in those days and to many, that was all the more reason to do it.
I don't necessarily agree with that justification, but I do find myself asking what I would have done if I were in Lance's situation. If I had dedicated my whole life to cycling and knew I was the best, could I have sat back and let all the other dopers ride past me? I'd like to think that I would have made the right choice and said "sure, let the cheaters pass" but then again, I have a pretty competitive personality myself.
From an early age Lance knew he was not an average rider. His physiology, ability to uptake oxygen, and explode on command were apparent long before his PED use began. Imagine having that much potential but being forced to watch less talented riders go by. For top riders of the day this scenario was simply not an option so the doping culture took off and spiraled out of control. As Lance put it, doping was just an accepted practice. It was like putting air in the tires and filling up water bottles.
I think a good way to understand just how accepted it was is to go back through the books and try to find a clean runner up to award his stripped titles to. Most who would now be considered the actual, 'clean' winners actually finished in 10th place or higher. Check out this article if you don't believe me (start on paragraph six if you're pressed for time).
While part of me says since everyone was doping Lance's mistakes are forgivable, I do not think they are justifiable. In fact, I can forgive him for the doping, but not for the lying. Lance launched a full court attack on anyone insinuating he was a doper, smearing their reputations and pressing lawsuits.
As a fan, I felt the need to repeat his fierce denial of any wrong doing. If a friend called him a cheater I'd fire back with a number of "he's never failed a drug test" lines or "this is a hearsay witch hunt!" My favorite line was, "You can't ban him until there's a positive test. If one shows up then fine, ban the hell out of him, but until then he can't be touched."
Looking back at those words, it seems as if I should support the life ban Lance was hit with. For some reason though I just can't bring myself to do it. I remember thinking how mad I'd be if I defended him all this time and he turned out to be a doper, but I'm not actually as angry as I wish I was. Sure, I think the guys a jerk and a liar. After listening to part one of his interview I don't even think he's sorry, but there's something inside me that still wants to see him race. Something that wants to see the life ban lifted and see what he does as a pro-triathlete.
The guy is still super human, with or without the drugs he would be dominating Ironman championships. We'll see what he says in the second part of tonight's interview. I really hope he says something tonight either makes me believe he's truly sorry or turns me anti-Lance, but I don't think it's likely. Regardless Lance's saga is far from over.