I’d love to say that I’ve attained every sporting goal I’ve ever set myself. I have yet to represent my country playing football, rugby, cricket, curling, lawn bowls, or athletics: the closest I ever got was winning the Scottish Championships in the javelin (under-12s), only to miss the British Championships because I had a nasty fight with some Giant Hogweed. Also, I was once a mascot at one of Scotland’s ODIs. I met Ian Botham. It was quite cool.
Lance Armstrong is not a man who was used to failure: he won the fight of his life when he overcame cancer, and when it came to the Tour de France, he wasn’t going to lose. Over the last few weeks, more and more team-mates have come out and accused him of being a drug cheat, sponsors have abandoned him, and his refusal to defend himself any more is tantamount to an admission.
It hurts me to say these things: I would not consider myself an avid cycling fan, but I certainly enjoy watching the Tour de France, as well as track cycling, and as a sports fan, I lived through what might be previously have been considered to be the greatest sporting story of all time. Man beats cancer, and then wins the hardest sporting event on earth. Multiple times. And in dominant fashion.
There are millions of people who would have regarded Lance Armstrong to be an inspiration, and a hero, whether it be someone who takes strength in their own fight with cancer, or whether it’s a young cyclist fighting up Box Hill. There are not many left who still want to be inspired by a man who achieved everything, it would appear, by cheating.
I know there are those who tell me that he beat cancer, and became a professional cyclist, so who cares if he doped a little? I can’t listen to it; it goes against everything we are taught about competition. Even a “win at all costs” attitude is confined by the rules: without rules, what does a sport become?
I suppose what I am saying is that when Armstrong eventually breaks down in an emotional press conference and admits everything, which I expect him to do, or even have already done by the time you read this, I too will be sad. Not for him, but for his friends, his family, and every person who watched his Tour de France victories. Those victories have rightly been stripped from him, and entire era of cycling has been lost.
It is not a mainstream sport, and it will suffer because of his actions.
If you want to read a truly inspiring story, read about Steven Sims, a truly wonderful individual who was cruelly taken from us over the summer. In his short life, he may not have inspired as many people as Armstrong, but his memory will stay with us all far more fondly.