Edit: 10-16-12 – Times and events change and so do we, at least I hope we do. I need to update this post, and will soon, because my views about Lance Armstrong have changed dramatically and I need to explain.
Please read my latest post, “Armstrong’s Doomsday“.
Lance Armstrong announced today he is retiring again. Retirement 2.0. is no doubt his final retirement from professional bike racing.
I have followed the career of Armstrong since the early days – before his Tour de France racing. The picture here is from his 1992 Olympic card which I have. He competed in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and turned pro shortly after.
I’ve been a fan of the Tour de France since the mid-1990’s. I was hopeful when Armstrong competed in the Tour in 1996 and disappointed when he had to quit. Like everyone I was shocked when he announced he had cancer.
And like everyone else I was shocked again when he beat cancer and then against all odds, beat the best bike riders in the world to take his first of seven Tour de France wins.
Armstrong was without equal on the bike then, both in his physical ability and his preparation. He was phenomenal and I loved watching him race.
I love bike racing and the simple fact is that Armstrong racing in the Tour de France meant Americans began to care about bike racing. And that meant we got coverage of the greatest bike race in the world – in my mind the greatest sporting event in the world.
Amazing amounts of coverage. I could actually watch the race – every day – whereas when I first started following the Tour I read about it when I could and watched the occasional 5 or 10 minutes of coverage it got on television on Sunday afternoon.
We have Armstrong to thank for that too. I watch more television in the month of July than I watch the rest of the year combined. And when I’m not watching the Tour in July I can still watch the 1999 – 2005 Tours on DVD.
I’ll miss the attention he brought to cycling – and the respect. Armstrong riding a bike changed things for all bike riders in the U.S. I personally saw attitudes change toward me on the bike – especially during the peak of Armstrong’s Tour performances.
It was like all of a sudden motorists thought it was sort of okay that I was on the road. At least they didn’t look at me as if I was from another planet. Well most of the time anyway. The spandex still threw them.
But what Armstrong did for cycling here was huge – beyond measure – and I will forever be thankful for that.
What he has done for cancer awareness and for people coping with cancer is also beyond measure.
When his book, “It’s Not About the Bike” came out I bought it even though it wasn’t about the bike – and most of my wanting to read it was about the bike – I still enjoyed it. I loaned it to several people when they learned they had cancer.
In 2001 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and one of the first things I did was re-read that book. And it wasn’t about the bike that time. My doctor recommended I go to Denver for further tests (which ultimately showed no breast cancer) and my husband and I decided to drive. I read it throughout the drive out. It gave me hope. Armstrong has done that for millions affected by cancer – and for the most part that’s the group that fiercely defends him – and I understand why.
We may never know whether or not he doped during any or all of his Tour de France wins. Like many, I believe he did. That was the climate then, it is not the climate now – largely because of the international obsession with whether or not Armstrong doped and the tests and anti-doping protocols put into place because of it.
Absolutely my preference is that Armstrong raced clean, my preference is that all cyclists race clean.
My preference is that all football – baseball – basketball – soccer – track and field (I don’t care about hockey) athletes compete clean too.
If we expect one group to compete clean, shouldn’t we expect it of all?
If Armstrong is proven to have doped during his career I will be very disappointed like every other fan of cycling.
Regardless of how you see it and whether you believe he raced clean or not, we should be able to agree that what Armstrong has done both on and off the bike is nothing short of extraordinary.