The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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It is hubris that usually does us in. That was certainly the case with Lance Armstrong, who believed he was so gifted he was invulnerable, that no one could touch him. How different things would have been for Lance if he had simply given his down-on-his-luck ex partner, Floyd Landis, a job or money when he asked for it. Landis would not have sent the email that began the process of slowly unraveling Armstrong’s empire. Naturally, no one likes to be blackmailed, but in the case of Landis, a little bit of sympathy would have gone a long way. Of course, the qualities that make us strong are the very ones that make us weak. Lance put everything together—a dominating will, a wonderfully strong and efficient body, and the intelligence to create the best doping protocol on the planet—to win seven Tour de France titles. He was amazing rider, but it was his hubris—the need to crush or discredit rivals and critics—that brought him down. It’s ironic. Those who worshiped him have now become his critics and are pretending to be outraged. Let them. Let them take his titles, too. Let them pick over his bones if they want. It will never change the fact that he was magnificent.

October 15, 2012   Comments Off on Hubris

Eyes Wide Shut

Floyd Landis recently went on national television to repeat his allegations against Lance Armstrong. As he spoke, his eyes shifted, his voice quavered, he twisted in his chair, and, in general, he expressed himself in the most circuitious way possible as if he were incapable of making a direct statement. This is not the kind of man you would buy a used car or anything else from. Most jurors, I think, would not believe him. But, of course, this does not mean he’s lying.

The purpose of his television appearance was to convict Armstrong in the court of public opinion. Many famous cases–of which this is likely to be one–are argued in front of cameras, as well as in the courtroom. It is now all too obvious that Lance Armstrong has powerful enemies, and despite how “dishonest” Landis appears, they are succeeding in destroying Lance piece by piece. It is not a pretty sight.

July 25, 2010   Comments Off on Eyes Wide Shut

An odd twist…

More of the Landis story filters out. Although he admits to doping, he claims he did not use testosterone during the 2006 Tour for which he supposedly tested positive after his unlikely victory on stage 17 (if you remember, his testosterone/epitestosterone ratio was significantly skewed). In other words, he got busted for something he didn’t do. It would explain his crazed attitude about what happened to him. He’s convinced the cycling authorities themselves cheated, denying him victory. It would also explain, now that he’s 2 million dollars lighter from his legal battles, why he wants the others to pay as well. He’s angry they escaped punishment and he did not.

May 20, 2010   Comments Off on An odd twist…

Remember Lasse Virén?

Lasse Virén, the last of the flying Finns, won gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races in Munich and Montreal. In the intervening years, he could barely compete. As a result, he was accused of blood doping—freezing blood and then returning it to the body to improve its oxygen content by increasing the red cell count. This practice was still legal in the 70’s, but Virén never admitted to it. Performance-enhancement through drugs—real or imagined—has been around for decades. Of course, who can forget the performances of the East German swimmers and the later admissions of the systematic use of anabolic-steroids?

In this light, it will be interesting to see how Floyd Landis’s recent doping allegations play out. The French authorities have long wanted to strip Armstrong of his titles, so I imagine they will shift through Floyd’s accusations very carefully to see if they can extract anything that will bring Lance down. Because Landis has no documented evidence of drug use (notes, photographs, and the like), it will not be easy.

Of course, Landis will succeed in further tarnishing Armstrong’s reputation, but his accusations will not succeed unless others in the sport are willing to admit their involvement and offer more than hearsay evidence. This may, in fact, happen. It all depends on where the balance of power now lies in the sport and how vigorously the authorities, including the Food and Drug Administration, pursue the allegations.

I don’t doubt for a moment that every top cyclist in the world has used performance-enhancing drugs for decades. It would be impossible to compete otherwise. Will the sport survive if it is proven that every major victory of the past thirty years was aided by drugs?

May 20, 2010   Comments Off on Remember Lasse Virén?