Tag Archives: lance armstrong

Lance Armstrong – Douchebaggery Personified


For the last few weeks, Twitter was abuzz with news that Lance Armstrong was finally going to come clean to Oprah. Amazingly, a fake dead girlfriend seemed to one-up Lance’s admission to using performance enhancing drugs, but like millions of other Americans, I set my DVR to see what this was all about.

I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of competitive biking. Being from Minnesota, I obviously am well aware of Greg LeMond and his accomplishments. I recall watching the Tour de France along with some other random bike races when I was a kid on ESPN during the days in the summer. Before Lance, though, the sport had nobody I could really connect with. Watching it was simply a way to alleviate boredom in between Little League practice and riding my bike over to a friends house to play Street Fighter 2. As a sport, it was as relevant to me as The World’s Strongest Man Competition or those outdoorsy competitions where two burly men would try to chop a log quicker than the other.

Then Lance came along and changed the game. His greatness in sport, especially combined with his background in beating cancer, captivated a nation. His awards were numerous (Sports Illustrated athlete of the year, USOC Sportsman of the year (4x), AP Male Athlete of the Year (4x), amon gmany others). His achievements outside of the sport were remarkable (quick question… how many other bikers have you seen on Leno or Letterman?) His bankroll? Plentiful. His accomplishments in regards to fundraiser for cancer? Remarkable.

Right around the time Lance was at his peak, I started running marathons. A good friend gave me a copy of Lance’s biography “It’s Not About the Bike” for Christmas. I enjoyed his tales of working hard, but found Lance himself to be someone of a difficult person to like. In fact, the more I more I read and heard about Lance Armstrong, the more I thought he came across as an egotistical douche.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard countless stories of Lance Armstrong. Other than stories involving kids and/or cancer, he’s come across as an incredible jerk.

Coming into the tell-all interview with Oprah, I’m expected to see a Lance Armstrong who’s somewhat humbled, somewhat humiliated, and changed for the better.

Instead, I see the exact same Lance Armstrong I’ve come to know for the past 10 years who looked like he was sorry that he got caught. Many have credited Oprah Winfrey for being a “tough” interviewer, but I just didn’t see it. She asked the sometimes tough (albeit obvious) questions, but she didn’t really follow up and never really challenged him. She never really twisted the knife and made him uncomfortable. She never questioned whether or not he has human emotions (I’m not sure, for the record). She never asked why he didn’t come forward earlier with so much evidence against him. She never questioned why he was so certain he wasn’t cheating in his second comeback (Science seems to think he was) and why it mattered? She never questioned his motivations when it comes to money.

None of that should be surprising. If Lance was truly remorseful and wanted to come clean, he would’ve asked a journalist like a Bryant Gumbel that would’ve asked the hard questions and then questioned the sincerity of his responses. Lance wanted Oprah because Oprah, like Lance, is full of herself and understands how to ask a hard question without asking a hard question. Oprah understands Oprah. Like Lance, Oprah’s entire “brand” is a facade. She appears sympathetic. She appears to ask hard hitting questions. She appears to be deeply touched by the lives of those who graced her show every Monday thru Friday for years and years and years. I always viewed her as someone who was successful at pulling on the heartstrings of America, making puppy dog eyes, and insincerely telling her guests “I’m sorry” while stacking fat sacks of cash. Every time a middle school teacher slept with her student, a celebrity gained or lost 20 pounds, or someone needed to come out of the closet, Oprah was there to make another ten bucks. The fact Oprah’s star has waned with the lack of success from her OWN network made Oprah made her the perfect interview candidate for Lance. In a way, this whole interview was like how the fighter between Rocky Balboa and Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan) was supposed to go down in Rocky 3. Go in there, throw a few jabs that look a little worse than they really were, and celebrate with a beer together afterwards.

To me, the fact that Lance Armstrong doped isn’t the story. Everyone doped and everyone lied about it. The bigger story is how he mistreated his bike mechanic, his masseuse, and David Walsh. The list of people he bullied (Betsy Andreu, Greg LeMond, numerous former teammates, USADA) is almost too long to list.

Yet, when asked by Oprah why be such a bully and essentially ruin lives, he would essentially excuse himself as being hyper-competitive and he saw them as challenging him. As you watched him be interviewed, you could see that Lance had excused himself for what he had done. What’s worse, you could feel that he didn’t even feel bad about it. Again, he felt bad that he got caught and he felt bad that all of the fame, glory, and money was gone. He felt bad that’s he’s not able to compete anymore.

“I deserve to be punished. I’m not sure I deserve the death penalty”

Lance said this line (or something similar) repeatedly. Never once did Oprah ask him “What penalty do you think you deserve?” I’d be curious to what his response was.

I think professional runner Lauren Fleshman really nailed it in her letter to Lance Armstrong. He cheated and he deserves to suffer the consequences. From Fleshman’s article:
A doctor who intentionally harms a patient will never practice medicine again because the central tenet of medicine is to “do no harm.” A lawyer who lies under oath or commits a crime will never practice law again, because adherence to the law is the foundation of their profession. If a financial planner steals a client’s money, if a teacher has a sexual relationship with a student…each profession has its unforgivable sin, and in sports it is doping. I do not wish for you to go to hell, or live a miserable life…I simply want you, along with all the other cheaters, to find a new profession so that mine continues to mean something.

I think that’s exactly where I’m at. He cheated, lied about it, bullied people about it, lied about it again, made a comeback in 2009-10, cheated again (he’s still lying about that one), got caught, lied about it, posted an incredibly douche-y picture of himself in front of his 7 yellow jerseys, and came clean once it seemed all other options to continue lying/bullying/being Lance were exhausted. To allow him to serve a two year ban and come back and compete in triathlons would not only do a disservice to his teammates who came clean earlier yet served longer suspensions, but it would do nothing to deter future competitors to dope.

By his own admission, he doped for over 10 years (I think the true figure was closer to 15). Is Lance Armstrong the first athlete who’s cheated? Nope. Is he the first terrific athlete who seems to be unlikable? Stories of Michael Jordan, Kobe, Tiger Woods, Kevin Garnett, and thousands of others would lean towards no. But exactly what has Lance Armstrong done to deserve to be re-embraced by you and I? I’m not so sure.

As an enormous fan of running, I can tell you for certain that there are hundreds of professional runners that, by and large, seem like really good people who work extremely hard. Choose one of them to support. Let’s all agree that while he once was the greatest cheater among all the cheaters, Lance seems like a hard-working, narcissistic douchebag who just needs to go away.

The Dope Show

The drugs they say make us feel so hollow
We love in vain narcissistic and so shallow
We’re all stars now in the dope show

In the past week, two stories – one major and one minor – have dominated the world of distance sports. One-time American hero Lance Armstrong had a USADA report released about him last week that makes him look like a world class jerk. The evidence against Sir Lancealot is pretty damning. At the very least, magazine articles featuring his former mechanic along with interviews with fellow competitors and 300 page books paint Lance Armstrong as nothing short of a monster.

At the same time, one could look at Lance Armstrong’s pad or his net worth of upwards of $125 million coupled with the undeniable fact that “everyone was doing it” and easily understand his motivation for cheating.

On the flip side of things is the story of Christian Hesch. He’s a mediocre professional runner (mediocre compared to other professional runners… he’d look like a golden god running with mortals like you and I). However, after a fellow competitor found an empty vial of EPO in his bag, Christian Hesch was forced to turn himself in.

Hesch, who you have probably never heard of, is what people in running circles label “sub-elite.” Being stuck in the sub-elite category, he has no major sponsorship and often will enter a lot of events at a lot of different distances in fields they deem not competitive in order to make money. Not a lot of money (he claims to have won $40,000 in the two years he was doping). Here lies the problem. Money.

Interesting enough, though, Hesch describes the feeling that EPO gave him. Athletes are supposed to feel the effects after 6 vials. His red blood cell percentage jumped from 44% to 51%. After two or three weeks, he claimed “your running feels like what you imagine when you see all those Kenyan runners floating down the road.”

Here is the other problem. Taking EPO works. Hesch wasn’t subject to testing and because there was no baseline, there was essentially no way he would get caught in a drug test. Had he not been caught red handed, he would have gotten away with this for quite some time. I again point to the fact that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Lance Armstrong, and a whole host of others never failed a drug test.

Whether taking performance enhancing drugs better your ability to become rich beyond your wildest dreams or allow you to a minimal amount of money that at least allows you to pay the bills, money seems to be the motivating factor to cheat.

Taking a look behind the curtains of the financial side of running is very eye opening. A handful of the elites are making bank ($100,000+), but it’s not nearly as many runners as you’d think. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “Some 80% of professional track and field athletes who are ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. in their event make less than $50,000 a year, according to a survey conducted by the USA Track and Field Foundation. Half of them make less than $15,000” – which, if you are scoring at home, is less than minimum wage based on a 40 hour work week. Sadly, rules of the sport – especially as it relates to the Olympics – severely limit athletes ability to attract sponsors. A blog post by former Olympian Amy Yoder Begley helped shed a little light on what really goes on with track and field contracts. Thankfully, some of the biggest names in the sport are trying to change this.

Is this problem going to go away tomorrow? Nope. More money, fame, and accolades will certainly encourage certain people to give it a try to get any edge they can, but hopefully more education, better testing, and a minimal amount of money by changes in sponsorship rules can help at least curb doping in this sport.

Running Links

  • The Fargo Forum had a feature on the Perham boys XC team. They emphasized we’ve got three of the top three runners in the state, but I felt like they missed a boat a little bit by forgetting to mention we’ve got the fastest #4-7 runners in the state along with a handful of JV guys who, given the new rules for state qualifying, would make it to state as individuals if the rules allowed it. Plus, no mention of the girls team that’s far improved from last year.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love it that our kids are getting all of the attention they deserve, but it just bugs me a little bit when news comes out and does sort of a vanilla story when I think they could’ve done something unique and different rather than just kind of another color-by-the-numbers story that seem to be the norm in the understaffed newsrooms of newspapers these days.

  • Speaking of Perham runners, check out the debut episode of NYRR’s “On the Run” podcast. The NYRR has done a tremendous job promoting our sport, but I really appreciate that they approached this podcast the right way with some really good production values. I love seeing this kind of stuff and hope to see much more in the future. Check out the first episode below featuring Perham’s very own Gabriel Anderson:

  • Former Team Minnesota runner (and seemingly good guy) Matt Gabrielson has decided to retire from competitive racing. Seems like he’s taking the easy way out. I, for one, have taken a solemn vow that no matter how hard I train, I will never be competitive when it comes to racing.
  • Apparently, when the report comes out on Lance Armstrong, it is going to be quite damning.
  • On a recent run with our cross country kids, I was telling them a story about how I fell on a run this summer and bloodied myself up on the bike path. I was feeling really tough until I read some of Deadspin’s terrible events involving joggers.
  • ESPN’s 30-for-30 Series starts up again soon. Unknowingly, I watched “The Race That Shocked the World” before the Olympics which is a shorter version of 9.79* by British filmmaker Daniel Gordon. It premieres on ESPN on October 9th. If the BBC version is any indication (and I don’t know why it wouldn’t be), this documentary is going to be fantastic.
  • Cool news – this year’s NYC Marathon on November 4th is going to get more television coverage than any non-Olympic/Trials race I can ever recall.