Lance and me

I am sad today. I've been sad thinking about today since August 24th, when Lance Armstrong decided not to pursue arbitration with USADA over USADA's anti-doping case against him. While I have long wanted to believe that Lance never doped, I can't sustain that fiction any longer.

Those of you who know me know that Lance inspired me. One day in particular stands out: it was early in the 2009 Tour de France, Lance was riding with Astana, and he looked especially strong in the team time trial. We are roughly the same age. I was huge and bloated and lazy and, well, sad. Lance was lean and fast and hard-working. I wanted to be like him. And if you read the "About me" section on this site, you'll know that I have been trying - except in one respect: I don't dope.

Doping falls into the category of sports enhancement, where the aim is surreptitiously to improve one's performance via artificial and illegal means. Hormones such as erythropoietin (EPO) may be used to increase the body's ability to produce oxygen-carrying red-blood cells. An older but still popular variant on this is blood doping, whereby an athlete has blood drawn, from which red-blood cells are isolated and frozen or refrigerated until they are re-transfused prior to competition. There are lots and lots of ways to dope, and professional cycling has been on the frontier of new doping regimens. (Cycling is not alone in this regard, but it is exemplary.)

I spent some time today reading USADA's Reasoned Decision and supporting documents in the Lance Armstrong case. You should, too. It makes for entertaining though ultimately depressing reading. Now I'm trying to come to grips with what is now plainly obvious: that Armstrong was heavily involved in a systematic doping scheme, and that lots of other cyclists went along for the ride.

For what it's worth, I don't feel cheated. Lance was an early instigator in a long chain of changes that have made my life unbelievably better. Lance inspired me. Those riders still active in the peloton, and who have come clean today, continue to inspire me. But so do all of my friends and compatriots who race clean in Arizona and elsewhere. I am thinking of the folks, pros and age-groupers alike, who I see at our local events, whether put on by 4PeaksRacing or DCB Adventures or RedRockCo or AZRoad Racers or whomever. Folks like Karleen and Rich Dirmantas, Dan Cadriel, Jon Ford, Lewis Elliott, Kevin Taddonio, Jake Hernandez, and so many more. I find inspiration in my awesome teammates at Tribe Triathlon Club and Team Chances. And I find inspiration in my local bike shop (Tribe Multisport) and specialty running store (Sole Sports), where owners, staff, and customers alike make every training session somehow better than the last. For all of this, I am most grateful.

It's time we move on. It's time that the UCI consider a truth and reconciliation program to help advance professional cycling. It's time to stop taking sides and start finding meaning. We have a lot of work to do.

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Reader Comments (2)

Such a thoughtful commentary, Jason. Sadly, I wonder if doping was helping him all that much - in terms of giving him an advantage, I have to wonder how much it held for him since the rest of the field was in on the scam, or so it seems. Not that this is an excuse - it isn't. But it does show that the cover-up is always worse than the crime. What he did was wrong - no doubt - but the lies upon lies upon lies and the absolute demonization of those who dared to call his integrity into question. It just makes me sad. He is still an inspiration for his survivorship and will to live. His commitment to training and preparation for the Tour remains unparalleled - but now there are a lot of people who have lost a hero... and that's just sad.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacyB

Jason, I share most of your sentiments about Lance Armstrong. Since our youths we have always looked to heroes and heroines of one type or another...we need detach from their human frailties and remember the values they inspired in is about the human spirit...Blessings and godspeed on your marathon! Charlie

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie D.

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