The rehabilitation of Lance
Winning seven titles in a row is an awesome achievement, regardless. Seven titles with no serious falls, no damaged beyond repair equipment, no being caught unawares at the back of the bunch when a crosswind comes. This is the achievement of a super human.
And in this super natural vein, in Lance we have found a Messiah for cycling. We can hang the sins of the cycling world on his head and be grateful that all the problems are solved. However, we’re nearing Easter Sunday and stories of a resurrection are emerging.
The facts bear examination.
The facts as we are recounted them are tied up in the rush for publicity by USADA (US Anti Doping Agency), and the bold statement that this was the biggest ever doping conspiracy. The biggest hype of any doping conspiracy possibly, but in comparison with the USSR state sponsored doping system, to name but one extremely obvious candidate, it was a matter of a smallish cycling team and an unsophisticated system.
We know that he wasn’t alone in this endeavour, it takes two to conspire. We know that Tyler, George, Frankie, Kevin and the rest were all in the game. Yet, in biblical terms, all these riders shuffled off like the Apostle Peter denying Christ three times. Or like Judas who made his 30 pieces of silver, or Tyler with his book. (Perhaps a wise investment of the ill-gotten gains of doping, from writing or racing, should be recycled into something useful like Qhubeka). The doping we have examined, we understand, and we hope it’s gone away, although deep down we know it’s probably still there.
To get back on message, this is about Easter, and Easter is about human foibles and being forgiven. To be forgiven we must be repentant, which is not easy. We can be contrite, like all kids we’re contrite when we’re caught, we know it’s the right way to go, we know it’s the route to the shortest punishment, and maybe this is why we let the co-conspirators go.
So Lance gets a lifetime ban and the rest a slap on the wrist because of his lack of contrition.
The other sins of Lance are these: lying and bullying. Yet there is no stipulation in the rules for this. They all lied, and as for the bullying, why did they all continue to dope when they went to other teams, were they bullied into it there as well? Hamilton at CSC, Livingstone at Telecom and so on.
The bullying is really what appalls us most. Maybe this is because cycling is full of misfits, people who have been bullied, who are bullied on the road every day by arrogant and tyrannical car drivers. This, though, is life. Bullying is the way to the top and if you are thinking of denying it, then think again. We can look the other way, not see our own bullying propaganda, but this is us bullying to maintain our power and influence. It’s not an easy idea to accept, it’s not an easy concept of which to repent.
The lying is no better. It’s a practised art by many and a fact of life for all. We believe the lies we want to believe and let the others lie.
The drugs, the lying, the bullying, the horror of cheating and winning. All of these are things that occur every day in business. We know this is true, in fact it could be argued that this is the basis of modern economics or politics. But these are areas where we know there is no hope. The clean way to the top is a tightrope rarely trodden.
So why crucify Lance?
We thought he could save us from cancer, we admired his meticulous approach, his success and his hard work. All of these things still stand, none of them didn’t happen. He did work hard, he was meticulous, he was successful and he did fight cancer and win.
What doesn’t stand is the hope that we had in Lance, the hope that was dashed when we found out the truth, the hope that there was something so pure and simple in the confused arena of modern sport, something that transcended sport and spoke to our lives.
Maybe that’s what we need to take away from this, that everyone is human, and by nature everyone is flawed. Lance is not a Messiah, he never was. But does that mean we can forgive him?