Lance and the Second Act

Lance and the Second Act

According to media reports, Lance Armstrong earned more money as a podcaster during this year’s Tour de France than the actual winner of the race, Egan Bernal (Armstrong’s podcast is estimated to have brought in more than a million dollars, while Bernal’s purse as winner was only $557,00. Jen Dial Santoro, a former professional rider in the women’s peloton and cyclocross badass, wrote the following essay laying out her issue with Armstrong’s earnings and how and why he is different from other former dopers who have returned to the cycling world. It’s important to keep in mind, of the many American riders of his generation who doped, Armstrong is the only rider to have been banned for life—Padraig. 

People have thoughts on the fact that Lance earned more than the winner of this year’s tour by commentating. I also have thoughts on this. Deep, very informed and experienced thoughts:

Having been an elite racer at the time Lance was at the top, and having raced against lots of women who were later caught for doping, I have a pretty strong and legitimate opinion. Lance didn’t just dope. He bullied his team. He bullied people working for his team. He sued journalists for libel and slander who were later vindicated. He ruined careers of soigniers who were there for the explicit purpose of serving him. He blackballed clean riders from his team. He even ruined people’s family members just for speaking against him. Other riders cheated at racing. Lance cheated at every aspect of the sport and it is well documented.

So many others cheated silently. Yes. They took away income from other professionals. So did so many others. In fact, even I can account for many dollars of prize money I lost because my own competitors used drugs to finish ahead of me. Am I pissed? Yeah. But I had my college degree to fall back on. Lance ruined people who were in careers that were not racing bikes. Careers that relied on cycling, sure, but these people were left without any other means because this asshole ruined their reputation. And even after they were vindicated they lost 10+ years of their careers. Those people had families and lives to support, and believe me when I say they were not millionaires.

The long and the short of this is, Lance deserves nothing. At MOST, he is lucky to avoid jail time for fraud. But for him to actually earn money again in the sport in which he ruined so many non-racers and racers is egregious. Those of us who raced bikes at the top level are right to be offended and anyone else needs to look at what else he did beside doping.

 

Tyler Hamilton got caught twice and banned for life. That’s really all he did. Is he getting gigs commentating? Nope. And he sure as hell shouldn’t.

Floyd Landis. I raced with him when he was just a promising young mountain bike phenom from mennonite Pennsylvania and on no drugs. Is he living it up in his home in Aspen? No.

Pantani—doped silently, took his life.

My dear friend Ben Berden got caught. Did he ruin anyone but himself? No.

Lance Armstrong should never ever be allowed to earn a penny off of his web of lies, his network of bullying, his bullshit career. He did far more damage to people who didn’t deserve any of it, who were only there to support him.

Doping sucks. Cheating sucks. It hurts everyone who is trying to make a living racing bikes. But when you also ruin the lives of people who are employed to try to help OTHERS, i.e., racers and journalists, who are the main reason why sponsorship is even a viable form of income, well, that’s a different story.

Dopers are always out to destroy others, but at least only others who have implicitly given consent to be destroyed—on a bike. What he did is to destroy the very people who keep alive his ability to do this sport (media) and the others (team staff, teammates). That’s where he went over and above EVER being able to use the excuse of, “everyone was doing it.”

And instead of letting him slide into obscurity, he is earning more than the current winner (presumed clean, take that as it is), by commentating. Why?

Because the average newbie out riding their $10k bike, the cancer survivor who looked up to him, the people who don’t know the real story, are apologizing and grouping him in with the scads of other athletes who have been caught cheating. Frankly, I don’t know of a single other famous ex-doper in another sport who is as well-off as Lance. I also don’t know of another ex-doper who spearheaded the kind of bullying, black-ballling. and career injuring efforts he did.

 

Image: Jonathan McElvery

Jen Dial Santoro started road racing at Miami University. While racing for Independent Fabrication in Somerville, MA, she was among the first trio of women to race the World Cup in cyclocross in 2000, just ahead of the first women’s worlds. She retired in 2001, married her favorite Mavic mechanic Jonathan, and they have two little Striders. Now she’s a national and world champion age group Nordic skier.

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33 comments

  1. AC

    And yet he has great knowledge of cycling and puts out an entertaining podcast on the topic, that draws enough listeners to make it valuable to advertisers. I choose to listen to his podcast knowing he’s a grade A a$$hole, and that’s a choice listeners are free to make for themselves.

    Comparing earnings is silly unless you can also compare the value delivered to the payor.

    1. MB

      Might you be able to recommend a few other entertaining podcasts by people with a great knowledge of cycling, but who have not exhibited awful behavior?

    2. Padraig

      Well, we’ve got two right here: The Paceline and The Pull. There’s also the Leadville podcast hosted by my former co-hosts Fatty and Hottie.

    3. Scott

      Agreed, and I listen to and enjoy both RKP Podcasts. It’s entertaining and I listen as much for Lance as I do for George and particularly Johan.
      How many occupations out there aren’t fair? I know mine isn’t yet we show up the next day and compete. I don’t think we should condone or forget but move on and win!

    4. TP

      Shut up and move on. He provides a way better podcast than anyone else in the sport, which is proven by him being #1 last month.
      It’s 2019, and he has apologized for his behavior to everyone who will listen.

    1. TomInAlbany

      Dear Lance: I believe she should be allowed to voice an informed opinion and have actual feelings about a subject which, clearly, had a negative impact on her life and potential earnings.

      While I support your right to free speech, I think you must be a mouth-breathing troglodyte.

    2. Parker English

      Rather than whining, Santoro strikes me as reminding our better angles to shy away from Armstrong’s podcast if he gains financially as a result. That’s what he deserves financially most of all from those who value cycling. This, despite any value he has as a talented cyclist and podcaster. For emphasis, the reminder involves Santoro’s personal experience as a cyclist who suffered financially from Armstrong’s kind of cheating.

      The reminder’s not a slam dunk persuader, of course. Lots of folks still buy Pete Rose’s autograph. On the other hand, no one paid for any of the dirty Black Sox players’ becoming a baseball broadcaster. So, Santoro’s reminder’s not out of the ballpark for those who value cycling and discussions about it.

  2. Lachlan

    Agree entirely with this.
    Those defending his right to earn due to being entertaining etc… OK, but if someone on your family like a child is bullied at school by the kid that cheated on all the tests, or a partner was hounded from their job, would you say “Yeah, that guy was an asshole but he’s a character, knows his stuff and is entertaining. He deserves his job and the biggest bonus.”? I hope you wouldn’t, but in defending Lance, listening to his podcast, that’s basically what you’re doing.

    1. Mc

      He bullied, intimidated, sabotage, and harassed teammates and anyone that got in his way or thought to be a threat to him. He never apologized to the lesser known or less powerful people along the way that he ruined their careers. He’s a repugnant human being.

  3. Robo

    Lance is a horrible human, but he’s not holding cycling hostage. He can’t force people to listen or sponsors to support him -they all do it voluntarily. I think even most people – even non cyclists – understand that he’s a villain of the highest order, yet they tune in anyway. It might even be the reason they tune in. So don’t blame Lance for making a living, blame his audience for giving it to him.

    1. Lachlan

      Totally – it’s a character assessment (and choice) of his listeners and sponsors. His place in history and his character is long since settled. Much like for politics – its a free market choice, and a free world to judge people on their choices.

    1. JMans Dad

      +1. It’s not a close call and he should be actively ignored. I hit the “mute” button, fast forward, or simply went to refill my beverage whenever he appeared on NBCSN here in the US. He is a cancer on our sport for all the reasons mentioned in the excellent essay above. Those of us that were fans of the sport well before an arrogant young triathlete became the darling of Velonews don’t care to listen to his opinion ever again.

  4. scott g.

    When the Lance showed up on the TdF broadcast, I muted the sound and filled in what
    he was saying Mystery Science Theater style.
    He was explaining the best places to hang blood bags in small French hotels,
    which watches were best to bribe UCI officials with. Which seminars on
    character assassination he thought were worthwhile. etc.

  5. ConcernedInAustin

    From the movie Private Parts:

    Researcher: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes a day. The average Howard Stern fan listens for – are you ready for this? – an hour and twenty minutes.
    Kenny: How could this be?
    Researcher: Answer most commonly given: “I want to see what he’ll say next.”
    Kenny: : All right, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?
    Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.
    Kenny: : But… if they hate him, why do they listen?
    Researcher: Most common answer: “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

  6. Paolo

    Great piece, totally agree.
    I think the NBC coverage of him was wrong and the new interview a total BS.
    Yes, he can do his podcast and people should be free to listen in.
    Are you supporting a crook? Your choice.
    But don’t start playing with fire and getting the official broadcasting station associated with him.
    We all left the competitive side of the sport for a few years because of him.
    Some still are away.
    If he comes back we all leave again.

  7. Quentin

    If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in the last decade, it’s the fact that nothing in cycling-related media will generate comments more than the subject of Lance. Having said that, apparently I can’t help myself either, so here goes: I agree with the author’s assessment that Lance’s real sin wasn’t doping as much as it was bullying, and that should mean something. However, I also think there’s a place for allowing people to change. As far as I can tell, Lance has changed … some. I’ll give him credit for that, but I’m not convinced he has fully owned the extent of the lives he ruined. That still bothers me. Then again, I’m not one of the people he hurt, and they are the judges of whether he has adequately made amends. I’ll admit that I’ve listened to the podcast. He’s not a bad commentator. I’d be more convinced he’s changed if in addition to his occasional mentions of doping back in the day he’d also mention that back in the day he was a real jerk when he sent his lawyers after this or that rider.

    Generalizing beyond cycling, I would point out that the world is full of extraordinary work done by humans who treated those around them badly. Is it possible to appreciate the work of Picasso while acknowledging he was really awful to the women in his life? I think so. Is there a threshold beyond which a person’s offenses are sufficiently grave as to render their work not worthy of consideration? I think that’s true also. I don’t know how to define that threshold. Maybe it’s individual. Maybe it changes over time. In any case, it would appear I’ve not put Lance in that category.

    1. AC

      Great post.

      In discussions with non cyclists, when lance comes up, I like to point out the life lesson is much more don’t be a complete asshole than it is don’t cheat.

  8. JayP

    Great range of replies here that illuminate the subject in helpful ways.
    For myself, I side with those who point out he’s a known quantity. One of the MOST known in fact.
    There is zero new about this debate, other than Bloomberg tossed out a deceptive take on how much Armstrong made off this Tour to generate a news hook that would allow them to write an outrage story.
    Even if the number is accurate….that would be the podcast’s gross (and an “estimate” of gross at that) NOT the net that Armstrong took home.
    And Bernal’s prize money was hardly what he’ll make off his truly great performance. He’ll make millions, and deserve it. I seriously doubt he’s awake at night muttering about Armstrong’s payday.
    But these are trivial points.
    My main ones:
    1) we and Lance’s sponsors all know what we are dealing with, and in much more lurid detail that we could know about the nefariousness of just about any other human alive. If we listen, we absolutely already know who and what we are listening to, and that will will have some positive affect on his income. At this point, based on solid information, we’ve pretty much all chosen our position.
    2) There are much, much, much more serious forms of evil stalking the land right now. There’s always time and room to hate Lance, but if you have Serious Outrage Energy?
    It’s better directed at the very real issues in this world.

    1. Wyatt

      Yes sir. Look up. Lance has been an ass but also is among the least of our issues in this world at this point . His evil pales in comparison to our American and global day to day.

  9. Kevin Sande

    Vande Velfe doped…there he sirs with Ligget. Jen Dial needs a bew career in something besides editorials on former riders who gave many long hard hours to better the sport. whete would she have gone in this sport w/o Armstrongs success and the growth of cycling in the US at the time. She made more money because of him…fields and purses were karger even for the women racing.

  10. EB

    Many horrible people earn lots of money – it’s always been that way and always will be. But, don’t equate high dollar earnings and a large audience with respect.

    Keep in mind that there are millions? of people who’d buy a ticket to watch him swing from the gallows. He’s well aware of that, I suspect, as his narcissistic personality disorder doesn’t completely separate him from this reality. Living out his days knowing that this is true – even of his audience – has to affect him deeply inside. So, that’s some sort of consolation, I guess.

  11. MCH

    Why is it that all of the good that lance did for the cancer community always seems to be left out of these dialogs?

    1. Padraig

      Because it complicates the dialog rather than simplifies it. Most folks want their answers like they want their lighting: a switch, not an explanation of voltage. Also, even for those of us who like complication, it is incredibly difficult to reconcile the incredible good he did in giving people hope, with being the alpha in an organization that was nearly hit with a RICO prosecution.

  12. Jackie Gammon

    I still have a hard time thinking that he ‘deserves’ to be earning money from the cycling world. Did we forget all of the things that he did and how he ruined lives of so many others? I saw him at Interbike having an absolute meltdown, and decided then that he wasn’t someone that I look up to respect. or truthfully want to listen to. There are plenty of other folks that have a great mind for cycling and could share their interest, experience and put a wonderful twist on a story. Many of you may disagree, but I see no purpose for him to be making money off the cycling world…. that type of behavior doesn’t belong in professional sports at all.

  13. GK

    I didn’t listen to his TdF coverage as there was already so much coverage out there I didn’t feel the need. I have listened to some of his interviews with other sports figures and found them to be very interesting. It’s every person’s individual choice whether they choose to listen to him or not. He is a big ego and often sounds like an ass, who’s done a lot of damage. He’s apologized, as someone else noted, as best he can. He has a right to earn a living now to support himself and his family as he sees fit. The last fact is that even without the drugs, he was a damn good, gifted, and capable cyclist. Probably the best of his generation and was willing to put in the time and training to be that person. You can’t take that away from him. And because of that, he knows the sport and he’s capable of sharing that knowledge. He can’t take that back the damage to others he’s done, but like everyone that makes mistakes, he should be allowed to keep moving forward and doing what he can with his life to better himself and succeed. It’s not like we are talking Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot after all.

  14. Mark Spencer

    TP said: It’s 2019, and he has apologized for his behavior to everyone who will listen.

    No, that is not true. He only apologized to his family when the evidence became overwhelming against him. I challenge you to present comments from LA apologizing to those he bullied and ruined the careers of. Hey, I’m realistic enough to know that doping has been going on in cycling for decades and likely will continue as long as there are those who would rather cheat, than use their own talent and hard work to attain success. Such is life. However, until he truly comes clean about his misdeeds and apologizes personally to all of those he has injured, I’ll never listen to him again. NBC Sport had him doing little vignettes during their coverage this year. I turned that crap off everytime I saw his pathetic mug. His comments yesterday about Mike Pence show just how shallow this guy is. He is narcissistic, cruel and not very bright. I feel sorry for him, as he just has no personal insight as to what a miserable human being he is. Keep listening to him if you must. He continues to gain wealth from listeners like you. The rest of us want nothing more to do with him.

    1. Weiwen Ng

      Agreed – I’m pretty sure he’s yet to apologize to the Andreus, to Tyler Hamilton, to Floyd Landis.

      I tell you what, if Betsy Andreu forgives him, then I will hold my peace. Forever. My wife would be very glad for this to happen.

    2. Padraig

      That’s a high bar, but I think one we all would do well to consider. The day Betsy is satisfied is the day I let it go.

    3. Dave King

      Agreed. I would also add Greg Lemond and his family to that list. I don’t think that is ever going to happen, however.

  15. Dave King

    I very much agree with this article. I, too, raced in that era as a Category 1 and raced against Armstrong and USPS at the 1998 Cascade Classic, his las official win. I personally saw performances that defied belief.

    Outside magazine promoted him as a commentator who “pulls no punches” for his recent podcast. Which is ironic and hypocritical for a person who sued, harassed, defamed and threatened journalists, teammates, colleagues (Simeoni, Bassons), staff, and others who worked in the industry and dared to shine a light on his (and other’s) cheating. I.e., He is someone who did not tolerate criticism or dissent, no matter how honest or truthful it was. To think that he is capitalizing today on the same personality traits that led him down that path and which most of us find offensive … is disappointing to say the least.

    I don’t believe he has a shred of humility or regret. He has already said he would do the same all over again even after all he has gone through. I believe his show of humility and regret is just that – a show, designed to elevate himself back into the public sphere and regain attention, respect and financial renumeration. Everything he has done since the Oprah interview is in accordance with this goal.

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