There are fresh doping allegations against Lance Armstrong, this time from Sports Illustrated. In “The Case Against Lance Armstrong“, Selena Roberts and David Epstein, the pair who burned Alex Rodriguez, allege that Armstrong not only used EPO and other drugs but was the doping ringleader on his teams. (Here’s the 60-second summary.) Is anyone surprised? Doping is standard operating procedure in cycling. All integrity gets you is a scenic trip at the back of the pack.
I don’t care whether Armstrong doped or not. I always thought he was operating on a level playing field, so the wins are no less impressive. Still, I’m curious to see how this situation shakes out with Armstrong’s adoring public. For all the articles, books, and accusations by former teammates with axes to grind, the fans have never left his side. In fact, his support grows stronger with every allegation and failed test rumour. Why?
The easy answer is that he’s a cancer survivor who has been attacked relentlessly without evidence and still wins. But I think the real reason is that he’s a cancer survivor who has been attacked relentlessly without evidence by the French.
They’ve been on his case like flies on shit since his first Tour victory in 1999. Armstrong showed up to their greatest event three years removed from a terminal cancer diagnosis and all but walked across the finish line. And then he did it again. And again. And with every win, their cries grew louder, but few outside of cycling seemed to notice until 2003 when France refused to back the US in Iraq. While french fries were becoming freedom fries, Lance Armstrong was morphing from trivia question to national cause.
Suddenly, when Armstrong’s name came up in conversation, it wasn’t about him tying the number of consecutive Tour wins or his fight with cancer, it was about him beating the French. No one could wait for him to ride up the Champs-Elysees in triumph, sticking it to those effete cowards who needed the US to save it from the Nazis and then betrayed it in Iraq. They made Armstrong the target of a witch hunt for repeatedly winning the biggest race of their biggest passion in a canter. Fuck that country. Who needs France?
That sort of fervor helped Armstrong become an industry unto himself. His consecutive victories and cancer crusade factored in, of course, but when the French took on Armstrong, a nation responded and it has supported its champion unconditionally ever since.
So what happens now that Armstrong is accused by an American magazine instead of a French rag like L’Equipe or Le Monde? Nothing? Anything? There’s still no hard evidence. It’s the same speculation with some extra goodies (and knowing SI, super pictures) thrown in, but now that the xenophobia has been removed, I have a feeling many of his fans are going to explode into a cloud of smug disgust and then cry betrayed tears. Those idealistic fools should have seen it coming.