Latest allegations may prove tipping point for Armstrong
I used to have a running debate about Lance Armstrong with the woman who ran the cafeteria in the Star building. She was a big Armstrong fan and staunchly believed he was as clean as he's always claimed to be when it came to doping, while my view was where there's that much smoke, there's definitely got to be some fire.
It was a friendly debate, though one day she did say in frustration: “Who cares if he really did it? Look at all the good he's done.”
Well, it's starting to look as if people do care.
The confession of Armstrong's former right-hand man Tyler Hamilton on CBS' 60 Minutes that the two were involved in doping together on the U.S. Postal appears to be the tipping point against the American cycling icon.
You can see it in the outrage of people posting comments on Twitter -- “Lance Armstrong – the biggest fraud in professional sports history” wrote one tweeter – to the mainstream media as Business Insider has a piece entitled: It's Almost "Game Over" For Lance Armstrong.
Michael Specter of the New Yorker writes a piece “Say It Ain't So, Lance” in which he says he wants to believe Armstrong but “my support is starting to seem a little silly, even to me” and compares the seven-time Tour de France champ to Richard Nixon, yet in the end doesn't give up on him just yet.
There are still supporters to be sure.
Canadian lightweight world champion rower Lindsay Jennerich tweeted: “drugs or not, lance, your record will still stand for a very long time!”
But then there's Canadian freestyle skiing aerials legend Steve Omischl who wrote: “First tiger falls from grace. And now it looks like a matter of time b4 lance is dead to me #myheroesarefrauds #nosantaclauseither”
If you want to read two superb takes on this whole issue, check out David Walsh's story from The Sunday Times. Walsh and his paper were sued by Armstrong for a piece he did raising questions about doping. It was settled out of court in 2006 but Walsh writes it may be revisited after the federal investigation concludes.
Walsh also resurrects a chilling line he got from Armstrong nemesis Greg LeMond some 10 years ago: “If the [Armstrong] story is true, it is the greatest comeback in the history of sport. If it is not, it is the greatest fraud.”
Bonnie D. Ford at ESPN.com has also been right on top of the story and breaks down the key points of the Hamilton interview.
Count me among those who think it matters if Armstrong has cheated. Yes, he has done a phenomenal amount to help in the fight against cancer. He deserves to be lauded and applauded bigtime for that. But it doesn't give him immunity to dope at will as a cyclist.
You get the sense that Armstrong does see it as the proverbial “get out of jail free” card.
Around the time that the CBS exclusive with Hamilton's confession was airing, the head of Armstrong's foundation, Doug Ulman, tweeted: “913 people lost their battle with cancer in the last hour. We must not lose sight of "our" focus.”
Armstrong then directed a tweet at Ulman saying: “I definitely won't. Ever.”
But this isn't about the cancer fight. This is about whether Armstrong and his team systematically cheated to help him win seven Tour de France titles. This is about their contributing to a legacy of doping in the sport, a legacy that can only be stopped if the truth is exposed.
Along with Hamilton's riveting confession, CBS reported George Hincapie, Armstrong's most trusted lieutenant, has given testimony to the grand jury that the two supplied each other with the blood booster EPO.
Hincapie later said he had not spoken to CBS, but he didn't deny saying that to the grand jury. It's disturbing to hear Hincapie remark "I continue to be disappointed that people are talking about the past in cycling instead of the future."
What future does it have if it doesn't confront its past?
This is not going to be an easy time for those who put their faith in the Armstrong legend. As one father of a huge 12-year-old Armstrong fan tweeted: “What do I tell him now?”
Let's hope he gets to hear the truth.