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Lance, The Lies and Me

Lance, The Lies and Me

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Published by captainsneddon

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Published by: captainsneddon on Nov 04, 2012
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01/27/2013

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Lance, the lies and me
The Armstrong scandal ended in vindication for the journalist who first cried‘cheat’. He reveals that the memory of his son, who died cycling, helped him
 David Walsh
Published: 4 November 2012
 Lanced: The Shaming of Lance Armstrong — an ebook
 Read how David Walsh and The Sunday Times led the way in exposing Lance Armstrong.
  Freeto subscribers 
or £2.99 from the
 Amazon Kindle store
It is 3.30 on a grey Monday afternoon, at a Starbucks off the M25 and I look at a phone that isgoing to ring. It hasn’t stopped. It won’t stop. “About Lance Armstrong and today’s news, are youavailable to do an interview?” Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, the US, Ireland, Holland,Belgium and so many closer to home. No, no, no, yes, no, no, no, no, yes, no, no, no, yes, no, no,no, no.Seven requests are from the BBC: Radio 4, Radio 5 live, Radio 2, BBC Radio Foyle, BBC Belfast,Newsnight, World Service. There was a time when the Armstrong Story had black circles on its body from the BBC touching it with a 40ft barge pole. But this is the day, October 22, 2012, thathe has been officially declared an outcast, banished from the sport by his own people — cycling’sgoverning body, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). Its president, Pat McQuaid, said the formerseven-time Tour de France winner “has no place in cycling”.Armstrong himself is to change the profile on his Twitter page, removing the five words “7-timeTour de France winner”. He’s history now, another ageing story of cheating and lying and dopingand bullying and sport that wasn’t sport. An icon until the mask was taken away. “The greatestheist sport has ever seen,” says Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency.For 13 years, this story has been a central part of my life — from the moment on the road toSaint-Flour in the Auvergne during the 1999 Tour de France that it became clear Armstrong was afraud.That morning, the 25-year-old French rider Christophe Bassons, nicknamed “Monsieur Propre”for his anti-doping stance, left the Tour — although it is more true to say the Tour abandonedhim. They were dirty, he was clean, but he was the problem. They ground him down, ran him out
Lance, the lies and me | The Sunday Timeshttp://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/Magazine/Features/artic...1 of 904/11/2012 17:18
 
of town. At the head of the lynch mob, lacking only a white hood and length of rope, was Armstrong. Heenjoyed his enforcer role, chasing Bassons down the day after the finish to Sestriere: “He spoke tome in English,” said Bassons, “but I understood. ‘That’s enough. You are bad for cycling. It would be better if you went home. Give up the sport. You are a small rider, you know. F*** you.’”In this fight, I knew the side to be on.On the day Armstrong won his first Tour de France, I wrote a piece for The Sunday Timessuggesting the achievement of the cancer survivor should not be applauded: “There are times when it is right to celebrate, but there are other occasions when it is equally correct to keep yourhands by your sides and wonder… [and in this case] the need for inquiry is overwhelming.”Many readers were unimpressed.“I was disappointed by your coverage of the Tour de France… I am mystified why you chose tofeed readers a mixture of rumour, suspicion and innuendo,” wrote Ed Tarwinski of Edinburgh.Not one appreciated our sceptical reaction to Armstrong’s victory.But right now, in this Starbucks, I feel no joy. Today would be the 30th birthday of our son John who was killed on his bicycle 17 years before, on June 25, 1995, just an hour before I reachedhome after five weeks at the Rugby World Cup in South Africa. He was 12. The day before, he’d watched the Springboks beat the All Blacks in the World Cup final, taped the game for me on a VHS cassette and filed it away with all the others he knew I’d want to watch on my return.Liverpool was his football team, and he’d lost his life cycling home after playing a Gaelic footballmatch that morning. He should have stayed for soft drinks and sandwiches, but his team lost andhe wouldn’t have wanted to hang around. Since then his birthday has always meant more than theanniversary of the day he died, though it is intensely sad to wonder what your 12-year-old wouldhave been like at 30. For 17 years flowers have arrived at our home from a dear friend whounderstands.John was a particular kid; bright, hard, questioning, truthful, stubborn. When he was seven, histeacher, Mrs Twomey, read the story of the Nativity to the class. “And when Mary and Joseph andthe baby Jesus went back to Nazareth, they lived a simple life, because Joseph was just acarpenter and they had very little.”Our son couldn’t let that pass. “Miss,” he asked, “you said Mary and Joseph were very poor, but what did they do with the gold they got from the three kings?” The poor teacher had read thisstory for more than 30 years and nobody had ever asked about the gold. “To be honest, John,” shesaid, “I don’t know.”That story stayed with me; funny, comforting, reassuring even. Something didn’t add up and Johnasked the question. Though I feel the sadness that always comes on this day and the phone won’tstop ringing, I remember that old story and know I’ve been inspired by it. That the legend of Lance Armstrong should have been officially cremated on this day seems to me anything butcoincidental.The thing about the Armstrong scandal was that, even in 1999, the year of his first victory, youdidn’t need to be Woodward or Bernstein to get it. On the afternoon the American delivered hisfirst great performance in the Alps, the stage to Sestriere, many journalists in the salle de presselaughed at the ease with which Armstrong ascended. He climbed with the nonchalance of the
Lance, the lies and me | The Sunday Timeshttp://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/Magazine/Features/artic...2 of 904/11/2012 17:18
 
David Walsh has spent the last 12 years hunting down Lance Armstrong
 well-doped.I walked through the hedgerows of journalists, stopping to speak with Philippe Bouvet, chief cycling writer of the sports daily L’Equipe, whose father, Albert, had been a pro. “Doping,” saidBouvet, “is an old story in cycling. Over the last few years the manipulation of riders’ blood haschanged the nature of competition. What we are getting now is a caricature of sport. It is killingcycling.” Benoît Hopquin, a journalist with the French newspaper Le Monde, was tipped off that Armstrong had tested positive for cortisone, and that it had been covered up. Cortisone is a banned drug, but can be used by riders with a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). Le Monde had been shown Armstrong’s doping control form, and he didn’t have a TUE. They ran with the story.UCIdenied there had been a positive test, and said Armstrong had a TUE because of a saddle sore. Ata news conference Hopquin tried to pin down Armstrong on whether he had this exemption and when it had been issued: perfectly reasonable questions, but dismissed with disdain b Armstrong. “Mr Le Monde,” he said to Hopquin, referring to him by the name of his newspaper,“are you calling me a liar or a doper?”The truth was he was both, but at that moment he wore the maillot jaune, the famed yellow jersey — and Hopquin was intimidated. He didn’t reply. Not one person in a room full of journalists hada follow-up question; instead there were smiles and appreciation for the authority with which Armstrong had shot down the journalist.The bullying of Bassons and Hopquin spoke of arrogance: Armstrong needed to be aggressive because, a year before, French customs and police had targeted the Tour and found stashes of  banned drugs almost everywhere they looked. Shamed, Tour de France organisers said the 1999race would be “The Tour of Renewal”, echoing pledges that the sport has always been too quick togive.On the eve of the Tour, the organiser, Jean-Marie Leblanc, said the scandal of the drug-addled ’98
Lance, the lies and me | The Sunday Timeshttp://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/Magazine/Features/artic...3 of 904/11/2012 17:18

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Mark George added this note
Its just amazing what money and power can do. If a cyclist can perpetuate a lie like Armstrong did imagine what presidents and politicians can do. He really is psycho isnt he?
daigleshop added this note
David, great job persevering in the midst of the persecution by so many. I am thankful that the truth eventually was told. I am no Biblical scholar, but I thought the gifts of the magi were what enabled Mary and Joseph to escape King Herod by leaving Bethlehem and fleeing to Egypt.
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