It’s been a while since this news hit, and I have been mulling the whole thing over for the last few weeks… I have finally formed an opinion.
So here is my opinion, (for the benefit of the two people on the planet who read this blog…);
Lance wanted to be the best. So did his team mates. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that if the sport had been squeaky clean, he would not have cheated. Unfortunately the sport of cycling is about as far from squeaky clean as is humanly possible, so Lance and his team mates were faced with a very unfair decision.
A: Use doping techniques and have a chance for success.
B: Don’t use doping techniques and compete in a situation where they simply do not have a chance to win. Where it is arguably “not humanly possible” to win.
Clearly the team selected option “A”.
Now, given that they are competing in an environment where everyone else is already cheating, they were now playing a new game. They extended the playing field past the limits of the track and into a whole new world of chemicals, doctors and scientists. Not too dissimilar to Formula One, where the drivers are supported by an entire car manufacturing company and all of it’s technology.
So the game became more complicated. The team’s preparation needed to include a sophisticated process of doping and hiding the evidence, developing new techniques faster than the officials developed testing techniques and probably a few other underhanded schemes and setups on top of the hours and hours of training.
Absolute balls out cheating! But that’s what everyone else was doing, so it all became part of the game.
He was put into a no win situation, and as an extremely high performance athlete and a “winner”, he did what he had to do to make the best out of the impossible situation. He did what he had to do to cross the finishing line first.
He did what his team wanted him to do, he did what his sponsors wnated him to do and he did what the cycling world wanted him to do. He became a champion.
And now, he is taking all the blame. Everyone is saying “Ooohhh Lnce made me do it! It was all his idea.” And the cycling association has effectively put an entire era of rampant drug taking in professional cycling squarely onto the shoulders of Lance Armstrong.
I certainly don’t condone his actions. I am sure that I would have made different decissions than he did, but I am also sure that if I had been Lance armstrong, I would have been a nobody. A good cyclist who never made it because I didn’t want to “cheat”. And I certainly would have never raised millions of dollars for cancer research.
Lance Armstrong is a simple creature. He sees a goal and he lets nothing stop him achieving it. This is what we expect from our professional athletes. This is what we demand of them.
It is up to administration to ensure that what we ask of our athletes is achievable within the rules of the sport and the limits of safety.
In this case the administration failed. They failed the sport and they failed the competitors to the point where most of them were “forced” to cheat.
I’m no Lance Armstrong fan, but I don’t blame him for making the decisions that he made, and doping or no doping, they can never deny the fact that he won 7 Tour De France titles. That takes a lot more than just EPO.