Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I decided to forgive Lance Armstrong.

It's not so popular, forgiveness. Nowadays people talk of "gaining closure" when the perpetrator has been ruined, humiliated, jailed or in many cases, killed. There are two amazing instances of forgiveness in modern history. South Africa, for one, and East Timor for another. People who have been abused, tortured and killed for years and years find the courage to forgive. Incredible.

Mine is a minor thing, really. I've decided to forgive Lance Armstrong. Yes, of course, he made a fool of all of us you say. He cheated. He ran a protection racket around his racket. How can you forgive somebody that did that? Well, I think I can. 

As others have said, he broke my heart, a little. I followed him for years, stayed up late night after night watching the Tour. I'll never forget some of those moments where he just sprinted away on the climbs. One summer my daughter and I made the journey to Adelaide to watch him in the Tour Down Under. Do I regret that? Not really. 

But it was all on drugs, I hear you say. 

I can imagine how it all started. The need to compete, the fact that lots and lots of other cyclists were doing it. What is the line between self belief, and self delusion? Who knows.

Let's step back. Nobody died. It's just sport. 

You know what - I think we were all in this together. The doping authorities, the media, the spectators, everyone. We wanted to believe, so we managed to avoid the elephant in the room. All of us. I remember the lies that we all joined in on, and believed. 

"Lance pedals at a higher cadence."

Oh really? This gives him magic powers to climb a hill faster? Gee, why did nobody else think of that? What bullshit. 

"Lance only trains for this one race a year."

So the whole peleton is out there racing week after week getting race fit, and Lance somehow gets to the same level just by training? Seriously? 

"Lance completely remade his body after cancer."

Maybe. But is a re-made body after serious illness better than a healthy one? 

Things take on a certain gravity when you are in a cancer ward, I imagine. Watching a really good person come in and die quickly, then a total arsehole recover completely and walk out of the ward. The incredible, dehumanising, humiliating, random nature of illness and death. 

Along the way, Lance raised a lot of money for some charities that continue to do great things. Mostly for the people in those cancer wards. 

Yes, Lance, you are possibly the greatest cheat in sporting history. But I forgive you.

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