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.