“Nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide…”

~ Martha and the Vandellas

I have always admired Lance Armstrong as an athlete, and as (and in every sense of the word) a true competitor.  Of course he is in no way a sprint/power athlete, nor can he be considered, by any stretch of the imagination, “Paleo”.  But as a class-act person who happens to be an athlete, though, he’s got quite a bit to teach us all; lessons in humility, overcoming extreme odds, looking-down death itself, and the desire to give back to others.  I really do wish that he’d find and spread the word of the efficacy of ketogenic diets in battling cancer; he’d be one hell of a spokes person.

And I have to say that I appreciate, and agree with, Lance’s stance on re-admitting “doped” athletes back into the competitive fold (which he touches on in this clip, after he deftly rips Paul Kimmage).  Many would argue that a doped athlete should be banned for life, and I can certainly understand that point of view.  Maybe my lenient bias comes from having once been a highly competitive athlete myself.  I know all-too-well the “whatever it takes” mindset.  Add to that, then, the obscene amounts of money that the top few of these athletes in any given sport stand to make, and you’ve just created an ultra-volatile combination.  I think what the general public doesn’t fully grasp is that these athletes truly love their given sport, and to be tarnished in the eyes of that sport is unbelievably painful.  It doesn’t make any sense then, I know, to take the chance on doping and getting busted.   All I can say is, the drive to win sometimes overrides even the most powerful of feelings — even love.  Some athletes will let close, loving relationships wither and die rather than take the chance on converting some training time to “relationship time”.  Hell, I’ve seen this out of amateur athletes.

Anyway, Lance is one cool customer.  Just watch how he handles reporter Paul Kimmage in this clip.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUAO7xmNKeA]

Thanks to ccyclist for this particular clip.  And thanks to one of my favorite athletic blogs out there, EliteTrack, for the head’s-up on this one.  Nice find, guys.

In Health,

Keith

18 COMMENTS

  1. First off, I think it is great that Lance rails on the guy for equating him to a cancer. That burns me how idiots throw that term around with nonchalance. Like in baseball, calling a problem player a cancer-in-the-clubhouse. People should not have to be affected by this disease to realize how insidious it is. Complete ignorance on the part of some.

    Secondly, I see this issue as quite a mess, meaning the generally illegal performance-enhancing methods. I’m all for letting athletes get on with their life and profession if clean. But how does one separate or cull out illegally enhanced performance? How many of Barry Bonds HRs of the 762 went over the fence due to steroids? 100? 200? more? What should the record books say?

    Then there are those who have always been clean who could not make the roster or team because their spot was taken by someone who got there illegally. How does sports correct that situation?

    And how about Pete Rose who, as a player, undeniably deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. His mistakes as a manager cost him that chance for something that (I feel) is less egregious than illegally performance-enhanced statistics.

    Like I said, the situation is quite complicated.

    • Andy,
      And to complicate matters even more, at what point do we label and action and/or substance “illegal”. Is Lasik surgery in a baseball player an unfair advantage? Creatine for a sprinter? Caffeine? I have heard the argument that the line should be drawn at what substances could legitimately be considered unhealthy. But testosterone, for example, if administered correctly (and cycled) is quite safe. Unfortunately (or, from my point of view, fortunately), the human machine is not like a NASCAR engine that can be equipped with a governor. I’m not saying I have any easy answers here, and like you said, this is a complicated and thorny issue, to be sure. I know this, though, the mindset of the will to win at all costs will not change, and the doping methods will always be one step ahead of the testing. In my mind, another deterrent, other than (or hand-in-hand with) testing, needs to be implemented. What that “something” is, though, I’m not sure.

  2. It is a complicated and thorny question in a lot of ways. But in other ways, it’s quite simple.

    When you sign up to compete, you sign up knowing what the rules are, and you agree to abide by those rules. The rules are not perfect, they don’t cover every eventuality, some supplements and techniques could be seen as equivalent to doping. But you agreed to abide by whatever rules there are when you compete. If you break those rules, you are cheating, period.

    I understand the argument that there are tremendous pressures for elite athletes. My wife (who I was coaching) was a world-class professional athlete, and at one point in her career was being beaten consistently by athletes that were obviously doping.

    At one point we sat down and decided whether or not she would start doing GH or steroids in order to compete. It was not an easy decision, but in the end she decided she just wouldn’t be able to look herself in the mirror if she cheated. And in the end, she was vindicated. She made the US Olympic team, and the dopers didn’t, mainly, in my opinion, because when they had to go off the juice to beat the testing, their performance fell off dramatically.

    So yeah, there are pressures. And when you dedicate your life to something, and you see the people around you succeeding by cheating, it’s not easy to make the decision to play by the rules. But in the end, the question becomes why are you doing what you’re doing? Is it only to win, whatever that means to you, or are there other goals/reasons/motivations? Every athlete confronted with this issue has to face that decision. And it’s a difficult one.

    But you also have to be willing to live with the consequences of your decision. To act otherwise seems cowardly and hypocritical to me.

    • Charles,
      I agree with that point of view. Everyone knows the rules of the game going in, both the “on the field rules” and “the rules of conduct”. Violate the rules of the game, and you’re penalized appropriately. I guess my question is more of a philosophical one; how to move the sport (whichever one we’re speaking of), as a whole, forward vis-a-vis (and specifically) the drug testing programs.

  3. TTP:

    Yep, it’s a sticky wicket for sure. As you said earlier, when the testers build new walls, the cheaters just build higher ladders. And the ones at the very top (Bonds, Sosa, etc.) are the ones that can afford the chemists and new compounds. And as we’ve come to understand in a lot of sports, both Olympics and others, even when someone is caught, the results are often suppressed. (See Carl Lewis, FloJo, Etc.)

    From a societal point-of-view, I think there is no perfect solution. Testing will never be perfect, what they test for will never be exhaustive. So there is no complete control, nor will there ever be.

    But from a personal point-of-view, however, you always have control over how you approach whatever it is you do. And that process of overcoming your fears and limitations is why we train. So you always get the opportunity to choose how you go about doing that.

    It seems to me that the problem is that we want professional sports to be something other than it is. We want to idolize or even worship professional athletes. We think it’s just a better version of what we do in the gym or on the field. But it isn’t. It’s business and entertainment.

    But we want to ascribe the goals and values of athletics (dedication, fair play, commitment, etc.) to what is basically a business enterprise, whose goal is to make money by presenting physical specimens that we can fantasize about identifying with. The better-looking and performing the athletes are, the more money is generated.

    So in that context, the lines between what is acceptable and fair and what is cheating become blurred. Because the point of professional athletics is not to be fair; the point of professional athletics is to make money. That’s why it’s kinda confusing. We are trying to pretend big-time athletics is something other than what it really is.

    (Sorry for the essay…)

  4. The chances that Lance was clean are very very slim. Everyone of his major competitors over the years has been busted and he ran rings around them for years. I know people who work in the cycling industry with inside knowledge of the mechanism for his doping

    I admire what Lance has accomplished on and off the bike, but people set themselves up for disappointment when they assume he was clean while riding

  5. I could care less about controlling doping, but it just sounds like Armstrong is taking defense of everybody to make himself out to be a good guy & out of the line of fire, while laying into a known non-doping former athlete as a jerk (Kimmage). It is hard to perfectly understand (audio & accent), but Kimmage seems to be pretty anti doping reading about his career.

    Athletes taking performance enhancers are everywhere.
    Armstrong seems to just say. They are good people & they dont feel guilty, so they don’t admit it.

    It sounds like politician talk to me. Who’s going to go hard against a guy raising money & awareness for cancer? lol

    • I guess that’s why I’m apt to give Lance benefit of the doubt, since he is “fighting the good fight” (cancer awareness), so to speak. Of course, his smugness could be due to the fact that, in Charles’ words, he’s bringing a taller ladder to the wall. I will just say two things in his defense, though, that would have me believe that he (at least in his later, post-cancer years) raced clean. (1) As far as I know, he’s never missed or hedged a random doping control test. (2) I heard a physiologist from the University of Texas (Ed Coyle) who’s studied Lance since he first came to Austin as a U23 rider, speak at East Carolina University a few years back. He noted that there was a drastic change in Lance’s pain tolerance, post-cancer, that allowed him to push way beyond what even a gifted athlete would be capable of, day-in and day-out. Couple that with a physiology that’s already off the charts for an endurance athlete, and, well, you get an athlete like Lance. When the question of doping came up, this guy (remember, he’s all numbers and pure science) said that as far as he knew — and after analyzing vats full of Lance’s blood over the years — no. Of course, he may be “in” in the deal, too — who knows. I’m as skeptical these days as the next jaded guy.
      Here’s an Ed Coyle/Lance article for anyone interested.

      • Is that true, that LA has a physiology thats off the charts for an elite athlete? I assume that they are all physiological freaks, indeed didn’t christian van der velde show superior results to LA when they were at discovery?

        • Let’s not forget Lance’s increased capacity/tolerance for suffering due to his having survived cancer treatment. That, teamed with an insatiable drive, will to win, and physical ability make him an athletic machine.

  6. Timely,
    Just read a great interview With Lance in Outside Magazine. He sets the reporter straight there also.

    The wole doping/steroid issue is a sensitive subject.
    I know that my kids are ferocious about their beliefs that Bonds and now A-rod are cheaters.

    I’ll go out on a limb and be honest here. My opinion is this; I don’t care. In the sport/entertainment arena, people will and forever have tried to get an edge, an advantage. It’s only human and natural in my opinion. To push just that little further…to see where it can take you. From development of equipment to the physiology of the human body…it’s really all ok with me.It’s evolution in a way.
    What’s NOT ok with me, is the way, (public) sports heros/entertainers misconduct them selves. This is where the elite sports/entertainer personalities fall down too much and to often.
    Lance is clearly someone who does do the right thing with his influence and power. And I admire him for it.

    Marc

  7. Lance Armstrong is a drug cheat and a bully. The eveidence is beyond compelling. Paul Kimmage is a journalist with the bravery to ask questions of Armstrong that others are not asking.

    • I’ll most certainly agree with putting lance in the “forceful personality” category; comes part-and-parcel, I think, with the type A, hyper-competitive nature. The doping “did he” or “didn’t he” could be debated ad nauseum, I think. I’ll admit going in that I have a strong pro-Lance bias that shades my ultimate decision in this area.

    • Oh, I wish idiots like Gearoid would have to face Lance in court for such slanderous statements – we know how quickly this POS would repudiate his comments and chit his pants when the Police came a knocking at his door…

  8. He sounds like a spoilt brat trying to divert attention away from a difficult question. I think he should take the high ground and refuse to comment, rahter than to lie. That said, the journalist isn’t much better. He knows the score with cycling and is trying to get some attention for himself on the back of someone else’s success.

    • Is the consensus that he (Lance) doped in the past, is currently doping, or both? Is it a simple matter of him (to steal Charles’s metaphor), bringing a taller ladder to the wall? I think that whenever we see an athlete dominate his competition, we immediately assume that the athlete is doped. Maybe that soothes our fragile egos somewhat — and it’s not like we don’t have plenty of examples to point to in support of our assertions. The same “taller ladder” charge is currently (to change sports for a moment) being hurled against Usain Bolt.

  9. If we ignore conjecture, here say, opinion and bias, lets look at the facts. Lance Armstrong was a pro cyclist during an era where it has been proven that doping was rife. However, while many of his colleagues and rivals have either failed dope tests or been embroiled in some form of doping scandal, Lance has, so far, only been on the receiving end of, at worst, rumour and, at best, highly circumstatial evidence. Paul Kimmage, on the other hand, is a self-confessed drug cheat. Perhaps his crusade is an attempt to cleanse cycling of its perceived ills. Or perhaps its a personal crusade in an attempt to discredit all those who achieve highly in a sport in which he consistently failed, whether artificially aided or not.

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