Another Shovelful

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When I turned on my glowing rectangle this morning, the news that Oprah Winfrey will interview Lance Armstrong screamed out at me from every tiny window and rivulet of news feed. I sighed a deep sigh, the same one we reserve, here in New England, for when it snows hard on April 1st.

Am I the only one who is really done with the Armstrong saga? Am I the only one dis-interested in a confession or a continuing prevarication or whatever comes next?

To be clear, I am not angry at Lance Armstrong. I don’t feel he owes me an apology. He’s got to deal with the consequences of his actions, just like anyone else. I am just not that interested in what comes next for him.

I am glad we know much of went on during cycling’s EPO era. The truth is always valuable, if only to reorder the past in our minds, to feel more comfortable with what we’ve seen, and what we will see. But the details of what went on and Lance’s personal story are two separate things. I am not interested in his perspective, his feelings.

I have closure now. I know what happened, and I know why it happened. It is, taken as a whole and in retrospect, a tragically human story, the weaknesses inherit in our collective character producing a tale the Greek’s would have coated in wax and feathers. If only it were fiction, we could all smile at the brilliance of it.

And also, there are things I enjoyed about watching the racing of that lost period, an enjoyment unspoiled by confirmation of what we all (or most of us) long suspected. I am comfortable with the moral ambiguity of the whole story. In a way, I believe, we have to fail this way, we humans. It’s in our nature.

But I feel tired of Lance Armstrong now. It’s that feeling of standing in the driveway during a late season snow storm, the fat flakes lazing down from the sky, having to move it all out of the way yet again before life can go on, unhampered by factors well beyond my control.

Image: Matt O’Keefe

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47 comments

  1. Rich Wilson

    I’d like to see him apologize to Betsy and Emma and David and …

    Like that’s ever going to happen. What might be worse is if they get a nopology, which is highly likely.

  2. Carson

    Starting up the publicity machine for Lance 2.0.
    Prepare to be depressed about how lucrative this second act will be (book, appearances, etc.)
    Arghhh.

  3. Scott

    What a narcissist! He sold this interview to the highest bidder. My guess is, he’s going broke, and going through attention withdrawals.

  4. Champs

    I’m no fan of liars and cheats, but the chorus of righteous indignation that follows is just as bad.

    I’m long since over the Honey Boo Boo of cycling. Just maybe we can make it about the bike again.

  5. armybikerider

    Agreed that I too am tired of this whole sordid affair.

    But, as long as the “they” (which is “us”) in Matt’s comment continue to listen, watch and pay attention, it won’t go away. Attention seeking or not, as long as there’s an audience, like Erica said, it’s “going to keep going.”

  6. Paul M.

    Robot, while I agree with everything that you wrote, I have to be honest and tell you that my first thought up on reading this was, “And yet here you are, writing about him again.”

    Unfortunately, I think we will be done with him when he does or says something and nobody bothers to write about it or broadcast it.

    Just my two cents…

  7. Scott

    Robot, Padraig and Charles – you all write great sentiment well and we all tune in because we generally agree with you including this said tiredness. Solution here really is simple, write about something else. Trust your readers – we’ll still tune in. Racing is back on here down under, young kids are coming through, watch out before their too old.

  8. Patrick G

    I suspect that a good proportion of the people who claim to have “moved on” will be tuning into the LA interview. I mean come on, you don’t suffer through a highway traffic jam and then turn the other way when you get to the mangled wreckage.

    I’ll be tuning in for sure. And if he writes a book about all this, I’ll read that too! You can’t make this stuff up — it’s awesome!

  9. Jeremy

    I’m inclined to agree, but then again I’ve felt that way about Lance since about 2004 or so.

    Is that your bike in the top picture, Robot? Awesome setup.


  10. Author
    Robot

    @All – Thanks for your input. I agree the way to make it go away is to stop talking about it. I probably split hairs here by talking about wanting it to stop. There was as conscious decision not to run the post with a picture of the rider. And no, I don’t think I’ll watch the interview. Sincerely not interested, though I acknowledge it will probably not be possible not to hear/read about it given my reading habits.

    @Jeremy – No. That is Matt’s bike. Click the link at the bottom in the image credit to see pictures of a lot of awesome bikes.

  11. Jonathan

    So here’s a challenge: write NOTHING about Lance after this interview. Drop him cold. Starve his ego of oxygen. Concentrate on, you know, cycling. There’s plenty going on and the fight against doping and UCI corruption continues, but Lance is now irrelevant.

  12. High Plains Drifter

    I don’t give a rat’s ass about Armstrong. The world is full of crooks who made many an undeserved shiny dime. For every Armstrong, or Madoff, or whomever, there are hundreds just as bad who don’t make the front page or our collective consciousness.

    It’s called flowers wilt, it’s called apples rot, it’s called thieves get rich and saints get shot, it’s called God don’t answer prayers a lot, so now you know.

    But …

    Here’s my concern: the biggest cheat in pro sports is currently worth around $150 million. All of the potential law suits might get you $25M. At the end of the day, he walks away a rich man.

    And the clean racers? They don’t get to retire. They race, then coach, then sell real estate.

    Like I said, life ain’t fair. But what’s the message to our kids? Sure as hell looks like doping’s worth it, doesn’t it? 90% don’t get caught, and the ones who do must have screwed up somewhere. That’s my only concern.

    Which is why I’d prefer no apology, as long as the scum bag just sits in his man-cave with the only friends he has left — all of whom are on his payroll — and not rub our noses in it.

  13. Ransom

    How to transition? Armstrong got a lot of people’s attention. McQuaid et al are just bureaucrats who only look after their own self-interest, which is something people are understandably jaded toward, to a fair case of rage fatigue.

    Padraig’s political prognostication re Armstrong’s future makes me queasy, and I think a policy of no-attention is the best bet there.

    But where we do want people to stay interested is on getting/keeping cycling on a cleaner path. Given humanity’s tendency to be distracted by the latest thing, Armstrong may remain the closest thing to a sparkling bauble that the subject has to offer. How to sink that hook and get the weighty parts underway so that we can relegate Armstrong to obscurity without sending attention to doping along with him?

    I know more than I want to about the guy now, and don’t care to hear any more. But if the topic can still be useful, I’m willing to put up with it.

  14. sterlingbbiking

    I’ll admit that I’m one that watched in amazement at what Lance could do, it was fun to watch all of those years…in all that has been brought to light here in recent months is sad. Now is the time to get the house in order, and as long as this story is in the limelight maybe real change will come about.

  15. nuovorecord

    I dunno…it’s a Greek Tragedy being played out in real time. I find the whole affair fascinating.

    I’m curious to see how the few remaining followers he has respond when he tells the truth (limited though it may be).

  16. roomservicetaco

    ” I know what happened, and I know why it happened.”

    Do you really know what happened and why? We have a pretty good picture of Armstrong, but by no means a complete one. When did he start drugging? What drugs did he take/methods did he use in what time and in what context? Did he get access to drugs not on the market? How extensive were his relations with the UCI and others in the power structure? What did Nike, Trek, USPS et. al knoww and when did they know it? How, exactly, did he make the transition from one-day classics rider to grand tour winner? Was it all drugs or were the “explanations” given at the time also valid (lost weight due to cancer, increased pedal cadence, used best technology, etc.)?

    We also don’t know much about specifically who was doing what on other teams. I’ve been rewatching Tours from the 90’s recently and it’s hard to watch and not try to guess which success/failure was due to chemical enhancements or a clean rider trying to hang with a dirty one. Or which abandomnemnts were due to riders avoiding doping controls and which were due to trying to keep up for 3 weeks with riders who were unfairly enhanced.

    You may not want to know all these things, but it’s pretty difficult to say you know them already.

    Of course, an interview with Oprah will not even scratch the surface of getting to any important issues and maybe that’s what you are getting at. But, I, for one, would be very interested to know exactly what went on through Lance’s career.

    From a humanistic standpoint, I can only hope if he confesses that Oprah presses him to commit to paying significant contrition to all those he bullied – Walsh, Betsy, Emma, etc.

  17. Joe

    How many bloody articles have there been on Lance on RKP in the last month? At least 50% if not more!

    And what’s the theme of EVERY single one of them? “I’m so tired of tho Armstrong saga!”

    Reminds me of the man who went to the doctor who thought he was dying because it hurt everywhere he touched – turned out to be a broken finger

  18. LesB

    “narcissism”? Not exactly. It’s “narci$$i$m”. Good people, LA will make more from doing this one interview than most of us will make in many months of toil on our jobs.

    And of course, the target audience is not cyclists, who’ve, witness here, had it with the dude. It’s for Oprah’s usual audience, who loves the melodrama.

    How many of you will be watching anyway?

  19. Reid N.

    I have to confess, I am fascinated. To date, Armstrong’s reactions and steps have been to a degree, predictable. First call Hamilton and Landis “loars and haters.” Then call the US Government investigation a unecessary waste of taxpayer resources, while paying lobbyists to encourage Congress and others to put pressure on the US attorneys office to kill the investigation. Then call Tygart and the USADA a publicity hound working in a kangaroo court intending to railraod Armstrong by violating his civil rights. Then hire the most aggressive and expensive lawyers around to try to a get a federal judge to stop the USADA. And when all of that does not work–simply declare victory and say you are too tired to keep fighting. No reason to do so–give up and avoid the hearing itself.
    But now what? What is his next move? Some kind of public confession to rehabilitate his image? How does that work exactly? Will Oprah press hard, or will she be bowled over by the charisma that is Lance? He lied for sooo long and tried to destroy sooo many people, it seems very unlikely to me that this will work, especially if someone actually briefs Oprah on what he did, and too whom — the publications he sued, the reputations he sullied, the riders he threatened and drummed either out of the peloton or the bicycle business. Would Jerry Sandusky be welcomed back with open arms if he gave an interview confessing all his errors and flaws? Would Charles Manson? No–but, of course, Lance’s crimes are much less severe — at least they appear to us to be so. May Emma Reilly or Steffan Prentice or Mike Anderson (exiled to New Zealand) feel differently about that. Armstrong’s crimes are less severe but his personality flaw is probably just as deep. Based on his public performances over the years, he is a pathological, inveterate liar. To see him come out and admit to everything, to say how and why he destroyed Emma Reilly, or Mike Anderson, or ruined Greg Lemond’s reputation and his bicycle business, and sabotaged Frankie Andreu’s efforts as a director sportive, ruined Simeoni and Bassons’ standing in the Peloton — all of that–if it happens, “wow.” But it is hard to say whether it will or won’t. I just can’t predict how this next chapter will play out–and for that reason, I am interested and will probably watch–if not the show, at least the clips on Youtube. I sure as hell hope someone on Oprah’s production staff is well versed in the history over the past decade. Maybe they ought to fly Kimmage or Walsh over to have an on-screen confrontation, a la Jerry Springer. Now that, I would pay to watch.

  20. The_D

    Let’s see… if his sporting career saved Versus and his apologizing career saves OWN, maybe his real calling is in focusing attention on underwatched TV channels. That’s one heck of a gift; he’s like the Billy Mays or Ron Popeil of Neilsen ratings, that one.

    If only he’d got to Current before al Jazeera did.

  21. MCH

    You’re assuming that he’s going to offer an apology of some sort. Suppose he doesn’t – wouldn’t that be fun. I’d love to see him deny the “allegations” or offer some sort of justification. The guy’s a complete joke, but he always provides good drama.

  22. SusanJane

    Right here on RPK — proof that I’m psychic. I wrote that NY Times was to test the waters for a book and talk show. Three comments.
    – One: isn’t Oprah an interesting choice? Sort of the softer side of talk shows for an easy “Lance is in control” chat. Couldn’t we at least see Ellen telling him he’s lying?
    – Two: the Brits have posted the odds for what Lance might say. Sorry is at 1/4. Never tested positive is even. Not listed is “I won the Tour 7 times.”
    – Three: pre-taped Oprah is not under oath so he can’t be charged with perjury. Sort of the people’s court in the comfort of his very own home without anything legally binding. I half hope some media terrorist interrupts broadcast.

  23. VeloCanman

    Thanks for the realistic perspective. I also am “over” LA or Lance or whatever moniker he goes by these days. I said enjoy watching him race back in the days. But I am now tempered by age, and hopefully, wisdom, and understand what afforded those amazing displays of cycling prowess.

    One of my mentors recently asked me how I was dealing with the fall from grace of LA. I replied “Well, it is pretty obvious that he doped so I’m just accepting that fact.”

    His response was that he recalled my amazed recollection of the TdF in 000 or 01 when

  24. VeloCanman

    …he just rode away from the leaders on a climb like they were standing still.”

    I reflected on that memory and realized how much it had affected me, at the time. It was certainly powerful. And it undoubtedly pushed me to attain new personal goals in my cycling.

    Nevertheless, it was a fleeting moment in time. I realize that now. It doesn’t diminish the affect the performances had on me at the time, but it certainly affects my recollection and reflection, and how I currently view the performance.

  25. Michael Schlitzer

    I was tired of him in 2000. Like it or not, doping or not, he won the 1999 Tour because of the Passage du Gois and Vaughters’ peloton decimating crash in the middle of the ocean.

  26. Wsquared

    Thanks for your thoughts Robot. They pretty much mirror my own on Lance.
    Out of historical interest, I’ll be reading somebody’s summary about what is said in the interview, but I won’t be watching it myself.

    After a couple weeks of a severe cold snap that kept snow on the roads here in Colorado, it’s shot up to the 40s and 50s this week, so I have been out every day banging out the miles before the next storm blows through. The unseasonaly warm conditions and melting snow already have me longing for the Spring Classics, which is exactly the kind of place I like my head to be when it comes to cycling. The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is coming up on February 23rd!

  27. Alex TC

    The proof that the world is not yet tired or has no interest/curiosity/attraction/whatever of Lance is the sheer quantity and content of replies that ANY piece containing his name – news, old, warmed over, or him or against him, etc. brings up in ANY type of media. I mean, it´s all so polarized and in muhc larger number than everything else combined.

    “I´m so tired of riding this road but I guess I´ll pedal another century down it just to see if and where it ends”. Seriously!!!

    The simple fact that so many people feel the need (urge?) to express his/her disgust or whatever feeling towards his persona/character/actions speaks loud enough about the attraction he still draws. Louder than the denials.

    Credit where it´s due: he´s charismatic and interesting, much more than most other riders or ex-riders. Even now. Who wants to read about Andy Schleck´s recovery or Contador´s targets of the year when Lance won´t (maybe) go down on his knees?

    Let´s face it, most of us loved to love Lance. Just now we all love to hate Lance, but it´s still about him. He won´t go away anytime soon because he just won´t, but also because we´re not letting (yet) even though we say otherwise – perhaps trying to convince ourselves!

  28. PMAC

    If there is one person who irritates me generally more than anyone else in the media, it is Oprah. And Lance was old news to me before the whole craptastical pile of crap hit the crap-fan again.

    This weekend is ‘cross nationals, and in a couple of weeks, I will with great joy actually drive down to watch the world championships. Road racing is capable of producing very little amusement to me at this point; I’ll give it a nod when the time rolls around again.

    The Lance thing is just tabloid trash now.

  29. Hautacam

    I am SO done with this buffoonery.

    I am not tuning in.

    I don’t care what LA does next.

    I don’t really have much interest in pro cycling (though that is only partly related to the LA thing, as I have ‘splained in other comments).

    I sure do love riding my bike, wrenching on it, and reading this blog.

    Without this blog, I would never have known that there is an actual geographic place called “Tuna Canyon”! Ha! I chuckle every time I think about that.

  30. LesB

    Re:
    “Without this blog, I would never have known that there is an actual geographic place called “Tuna Canyon”! Ha!”

    Here’s photographic proof of its existence (link). Apparently Padriag had gotten past all these scary technical parts when he had his mishap. As noted here, there are stop signs on TCRd for the sole purpose of making drivers (riders) stop and contemplate what road lies ahead.

    http://silverstreakcycling.blogspot.com/2012/02/tuna-canyon-rd-first-descent.html

  31. Aidan

    Great to see a response from LA on the drug abuse. THIS is the only viable oppertunity to clean out the UCI and the doped pro peleton. LA knows where all the proof can be found. If he is forthright he will truely change cycling for the better!!! Future pro’s may speak highly of LA and his accomplishments off (and possibly on) the bike……….. Here is to hoping……..?????

  32. Wsquared

    Re “Tuna Canyon.” I searched on YouTube this morning and there are some great Hero cam videos shot from bicycles & motos (love that Ducati!) showing the decent start to finish. Not including a link because there are so many good ones. Worth a look.

  33. Bud

    Padraig, a minor nit to pick. You’re not dis-interested in Armstrong. You’re uninterested. The former merely means unbiased.

  34. RobbieCanuck

    Any “confession” by LA has to be viewed in its context – cynical, calculating and desperate. Real redemption requires the redeemer to have redeeming qualities of character. Armstrong has none. His fraud is the greatest in sports history. His denials, bullying, hollow lawsuits, in short his behaviour during the period of denial (1993 to present) make this that rare and egregious case where redemption should not be available to a serial liar and cheat.

  35. LesB

    On the newswire:
    The London-based Sunday Times has already filed a lawsuit to recover about $500,000 it paid Armstrong to settle a libel case.

    Dallas-based SCA Promotions, which tried to deny him a promised bonus for a Tour de France win, has threatened to bring another lawsuit seeking to recover more than $7.5 million awarded by an arbitration panel.

    In Australia, the government of the state of South Australia said it will seek the repayment of several million dollars in appearance fees paid to Armstrong for competing in the Tour Down Under in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

  36. Mtbdad

    To roomservicetaco. +1

    The interview is interesting because of what it will reveal about those who helped him, and therefore how we can fix it so we don’t have another hwmnbn in the sport.

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