Survivors won't care if Lance was cheating during his seven Tour victories
00:10 GMT, 25 August 2012
For a man like Lance Armstrong to
quit is unthinkable. He has fought against the ravages of cancer. He
fought against what seemed a certain death. He fought to reach the
pinnacle of his sport.
Now, with his reputation, his name and his place in history at stake, we're supposed to accept he was too weary to battle on
Faced by a scattergun attack of drug
allegations from the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Armstrong decided
he would no longer defend himself. The man who became the living
embodiment of the phrase 'never say die' and the all-conquering power of
the human spirit just quit.
Winner: Armstrong's achievements given his battle with cancer remains inspiring
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In doing so, he effectively surrendered his seven Tour de France titles and everything he stood for.
'There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, “Enough is enough”,' he said. 'For me that time is now.'
Armstrong knows what the majority will think. They will assume he dodged allegations that he systematically doped throughout his career. They will see it as an admission of guilt. It's certainly a leap of faith to assume otherwise.
The idea a man as proud as he is could let the essence of his being be destroyed without attempting to stave off those attacks on his integrity is almost ridiculous. Armstrong was never known to have failed any of his 500 or more drug tests. He insists the idea he doped is 'nonsense'.
But the USADA promised previously convicted dopers an amnesty if they testified against Armstrong.
They were spoilt for choice, too. Look at a list of riders who finished in the top five of every Tour de France won by the American between 1999 and 2005 and it is remarkable that only two – yes, TWO – were not banned for a drugs offence or implicated in a doping scandal.
So are we to believe Armstrong was
somehow the paragon of virtue in the corrupt peloton He cannot be
damned by association alone. If that were the case, every politician
would be an expenses fiddler, every journalist a phone-hacker, every
policeman would be on the take and every football fan would be a
But it is an extraordinary statistic, one that must not be blithely waved away now he has declined to face his accusers head on.
One of his quotes certainly struck me as odd. He said: 'I
know who won those seven Tours, my team-mates know who won those seven
Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours.'
Fight of his life: After beating cancer, Armstrong went on to win seven Tour de France titles
Maybe that was Armstrong saying he was no worse than the rest of them
Maybe he was saying he was the outstanding rider, regardless, because
they all competed on equally grubby terms
Team-mates, fellow riders and managers were certainly in line to say so,
claiming Armstrong was an integral part of a grand drugs conspiracy.
But the man from Austin, Texas, had sold himself on the idea he was
better than the rest; he was 'clean'. When the credibility of that claim
was to be tested to breaking point, he duly snapped. Now we are left
asking what is the most important aspect of this tale Did Armstrong
fool us all Probably.
But there is another side worth remembering. Whatever he did (or didn't)
take, Armstrong helped many hundreds of thousands of cancer sufferers
through his Livestrong charity.
They followed the saga of how testicular cancer spread to his liver,
tumours were cut out of his brain and he then endured the devastation of
radiotherapy or chemotherapy, only to literally climb back on his bike
and rebuild his life. It was a message seized upon by others searching desperately for hope.
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A friend of mine works for Livestrong in the USA and I asked for some
of the programme's unheard stories. A few personal letters were emailed
to me (not PR puff). They were tough reading, but they all
rang out as a testament to the power of the human will.
One said: 'Not
all cancer miracles occur in the operating room. Three months ago I was
a shadow of the person I had been. Cancer had not only robbed my
physical identity, I was broken in ways that neither doctors, nor
friends, nor family could repair.
'Most of us don't expect to come out the other side of cancer. And,
sadly, not all of us will. But Live-strong showed me that despite
every-thing we go through and everything lost, we are stronger than we
think and we each have a lot more fight left in us than we realise.'
Other letters echoed the same message. Whatever really happened on
those Tours, one truth is that Armstrong inspired people to get off
their sickbed and actively fight against their illness through exercise.
He gave them some of their dignity back. He gave them some courage.
Was it all built on a lie Perhaps. Maybe most of the cyclists in that
era were drug cheats. But only one of them set about doing something to
change people's lives.
And do you know what I doubt many of those cancer survivors care too much about how he went about it.
Inspiration: The American cyclist gave hope to thousands of cancer sufferers around the world through his sporting exploits
Bin this joke of a tapping-up rule
There are archaic laws that survive on the statute books even though they are next to worthless.
For instance, did you know it is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament Needless to say, this crime has always been punished by the full weight of the legal process, with any deceased MP certain to receive a death sentence.
And have you completed your mandatory two hours of weekly longbow practice under the supervision of the local clergy If not, you're breaking the law and betraying that London 2012 'legacy'.
Equally, there are outdated 'crimes' that sit on the football statute books despite being essentially irrelevant. Top of the list of redundant regulation is the charge of 'tapping up'.
This is the term used for an approach made to any player under contract to another club, one levelled at Liverpool by Fulham this week over their pursuit of striker Clint Dempsey.
There was probably a time when this rule served some purpose. I imagine it was when people searched for a holiday on Ceefax and clubs communicated by that long-forgotten method known as 'posting a letter'.
But in an age of mobiles, texts, tweets, emails, Skype, instant messaging and transfer updates from that Scottish bloke on Sky Sports News, everyone is in touch with everyone else and trying to enforce a bar on routine communication seems futile.
What's going on Jol has conceded Dempsey wants out of Craven Cottage
Fulham's complaint is that Anfield manager Brendan Rodgers mentioned
that Liverpool enquired about the availability of the American forward.
This followed one of those customary website foul-ups whereby Dempsey's
picture suddenly appeared on the website run by Liverpool's owners, the
Fenway Sports Group, before being hurriedly taken down.
Rodgers tried to explain this, saying: 'Clint is a player we've enquired
about, it is as simple as that. Ian Ayre, our managing director, has
spoken with the club to see what the position is. That is where we are.'
As far as I can make out, Rodgers's 'crime' appears to have been
candour. Is anyone seriously going to try to argue that Liverpool's
interest was a secret until this point Are we meant to believe that
Dempsey swooned in surprise when his name cropped up in a press
The idea that his agent, his agent's friends, some staff at either club,
a secretary, a couple of club executives, the bloke who valets
Dempsey's car, Dempsey's wife, her hairdresser, her hairdresser's
boyfriend, and, eventually, a few newspaper reporters, weren't in on the
possibility of a deal is daft. The facts as we have them are that
Liverpool made an unofficial enquiry for the player last month and
Dempsey has been left out of the squad ever since.
At first, Dempsey was accused of refusing to play in the opening game of the season. He was condemned for 'going on strike'.
Fulham manager Martin Jol belatedly moved to clarify the situation five
days later. 'I never said he had gone on strike,' he insisted. 'It
started during our pre-season tour to Germany. I was probably a bit
naive asking Clint, “Do you want to start” All he said was, “You know
what I want”. After that it was very difficult to communicate.'
Bizarrely, Jol held up Robin van Persie as an example of how a player should conduct himself in these situations.
'There are always players like Van Persie who want to move, but they
keep quiet. This was different,' he claimed. 'Van Persie did the right
Why, of course he did, if we ignore his release of a statement slating
his employer's lack of ambition, effectively trashing the manager he had
been with for eight years in the process. Aside from that, Van Persie
was the model of restraint.
On the move Dempsey hasn't featured for the Cottagers since Liverpool made an unofficial enquiry
If Jol is this confused about the principles of how a player should
behave, it makes me wonder on what principle this official complaint has
Tellingly, the Fulham boss added: 'It would have been better had Liverpool followed it up with a formal bid, but they haven't.'
And there you have it. Fulham have lodged a complaint because
Liverpool's informal offer was not enough and they haven't slapped hard
cash on the table.
They are right to be irritated that one of their star players is unsettled. But let's not pretend it is a matter of principle.
There isn't a manager, football director, owner, coach, chief executive,
agent or journalist who hasn't at some point discussed the possibility
of Player A moving to Club B. It's a joke to even try to legislate
Right now, the Premier League will leave this formal protest in their
'pending' tray gathering dust. They appreciate if Liverpool edge closer
to Fulham's asking price, the player will move and the complaint will be
dropped in the bin – which is where this unworkable 'tapping up' rule
Moving on: Fulham are waiting for Liverpool to move closer to their asking price for Dempsey