"I hope it sends out a fantastic message to all survivors around the world," he said. "We can return to what we were before -- and even better."
-Lance Armstrong after his 1999 Tour de France win
A few days ago I received the August 2010 issue of GQ in the mail. Casually flipping through its pages, I abruptly halted about a quarter of the way in upon noticing a headline that read, "Lie Strong: Is Lance Armstrong a Doper?"
The essay's focal point wasn't questioning whether or not the accusations are true, but instead pleading with Armstrong to never turn his back on his side of the story. Imploring Lance, begging and pleading with him, to please take heed of the consequential saying "lie till you die."
Now, this question has bubbled to the surface countless times in the past ten years, and each time it's been brushed under the rug by America's almighty media conglomerate. I, for one, have believed Armstrong in his staunch denial. It was never an issue of hoping or praying these steroid allegations weren't true for the sake of all the hope he instilled in cancer patients across the globe; I originally viewed the constant accusations by French media outlets as a vinegary attempt to salvage cycling as their own sport, thus making them untrue. The very thing they tried to keep credible was drowning in mud.
When Armstrong won the Tour de France in 1999 as a member of the U.S. Postal Service team -- a first for an American crew -- Mark Gorski, managing director for the team, likened the victory to a French team winning the Super Bowl. Obviously, the French had an axe to grind: an impossible to scratch vexation to live with.The GQ article's author, Andrew Corsello, leaves no bullets in the chamber when he paints a picture of who Armstrong, the man, really is:
"...as anyone from your hometown of Austin will gladly confirm for you, you've always been an arrogant prick out for no one but number one. How else to explain the odd fact that your glory and fame have always been separated from the sport of cycling, and that the vast majority of your admirers can't name another pro bike racer?"
Nevada native Greg LeMond -- a three-time Tour de France winner himself -- is the primary reason many are starting to reconsider their supportive stance on Armstrong. (Former U.S. Postal teammate, and walking scab, Floyd Landis simply isn't a believable human being.)
In the past few days he's revealed his thoughts on the federal probe currently targeting Armstrong, and if you're the man in question, things aren't looking rosy.
As we stand today, there are two factually correct, steroids related subplots that can be found in the Lance Armstrong archive.: his association with Italian physician Michele Ferrari, who had previously admitted to being associated with blood doping, and the traces of a banned corticosteroid that turned up in a 1999 drug test.
Maybe we believed Lance all these years because he's a citizen of the United States whose primary deprecators happen to be prosecuting him from a foreign land.
Maybe it was Floyd Landis, cycling's very own Jose Canseco, casting himself in an unflattering light with all those vociferous allegations that he brought to the table with no evidence.
Maybe we dug the fact that a cancer survivor who rides a bike for a living could date Sheryl Crow.
Or, just maybe...he didn't do it.
Lance Armstrong is clearly a legend. A legend among cyclists. A legend among athletes. (From 1999-2005, the only people in sports who rivaled his dominance were Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds and Shaquille O' Neal.) A legend among fellow human beings. The Texan's drive to succeed in the face of adversity is a story that's been tried and tested throughout our nation's history; as American as apple pie. He won his sport's pinnacle race seven times after being diagnosed with one of the world's most notorious diseases, all the while symbolizing an imperviously celestial energy. What he accomplished, for lack of a better phrase, simply wasn't human.
Should the probe produce cobwebs, Armstrong should retake his rightful place in North America's pantheon of sport heroes. If not, whatever doors that would have been open will be slammed in his face. Thanks to aging and a stubborn need to lie -- similar to Clemens and Bonds before him -- Armstrong's chance at redemption will have come too late. And unlike the baseball players and track stars before him, Armstrong will be letting more down than wide-eyed tots playing catch in their backyard. He'll have stabbed American aspiration in the back.
Agreeing with Corsello for a moment: Say it isn't so Lance. And if it is? Hush.