Millions of people around the world right now are feeling pretty confused right now. Actually, ‘disappointed’ might be a more appropriate word.
See, for over a decade now they’ve believed and supported you, marvelling at your ability to come back from cancer to win one of the world’s toughest sporting events seven times.
And every time the accusations have come out about you being a drugs cheat, they’ve stood by you and defended your record and honour.
So when all this news comes out about 26 people – including 11 of your former cycling team-mates – testifying against you, in the most minute detail, about your and their widespread drugs use… well, can you imagine what all your supporters are feeling now?
It’s pretty hard to ignore, Lance. The US Anti-Doping Agency is calling it “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”. And they’re unlikely to say something as strong as that without having something pretty big to back it up.
They say your hotel rooms were turned into blood transfusion ‘labs’, and that you not only doped yourself but handed out EPO to your teammates. They even say your first wife was involved wrapping up banned cortisone pills in foil to hand out to your riders.
If this is a witch-hunt as you’ve often said, then it’s pretty elaborate.
You’ve always maintained your innocence. And it’s that fight – the same fight you showed to come back from what should have been terminal cancer – which the support of your fans was built on.
But you’ve thrown that away too. You said you’re not going to fight these charges any more. That’s your choice of course, and perhaps you’re doing it in the knowledge and belief that you’re telling the truth and can live happily with that. It just makes a lot of people wonder, Lance. Especially when this report comes out, with such seemingly damning evidence.
Would 11 of the men who used to ride alongside you all suddenly turn at once? Agree on a story and stick to it? The sheer weight of numbers is what’s speaking here. People will find this hard to turn away from.
But then there’s the flip-side. That fact that you did come back from cancer to compete at the highest level again in cycling. And that your LIVESTRONG foundation has, since 1997, raised $470m for people affected by cancer. That’s good work, and no-one will say otherwise. What you have to hope is that that the money is not tainted now, and that people will continue to give to your foundation in light of all this news.
Lance, I was just starting out as a sports journalist when you won the 1999 Tour De France. I watched you race. I bought all your books. A friend even gave me one of your famous yellow LIVESTRONG wristbands (though in truth I haven’t worn it in years because, well, that whole wristband phase kind of died out didn’t it?)
And there are millions more like me who want to believe that none of this is true.
But frankly they… we… are having a hard time doing that.
Your first book was called “It’s Not About The Bike”.
It just feels a bit prophetic now, doesn’t it?