Trying hard to change the conversation

Philip Gomes

cycling, doping, Lance Armstrong, UCI, USADA, cancer
Lance Armstrong on the swim leg of a recent triathlon (Reuters Images)
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It’s been an interesting exercise watching Lance Armstrong try run away from his United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) problems by returning to the sport that brought him to everyone’s attention.

Armstrong was just 16 when I’d first heard of him, and for the then young sport of triathlon he was a revelation, mentioned in the same breath as Dave Scott, Mark Allen and Scott Tinley as a future Hawaiian Ironman winner, the man who would drag that sport into the mainstream.

Instead he jumped to professional road cycling and did for that then-minor American sport what he may have done to triathlon. That is what makes Armstrong the compelling individual he is today, he can change the destiny of whole sports just by being there.

Unfortunately for fans of triathlon, me among them, we’ll probably never get to see Armstrong ride and run on the lava of Hawaii - even though it seems like we’ll get our fill in such classics as the Superfrog Triathlon.

Today Armstrong is everywhere and seems to be running faster and faster as the USADA prepares to detail their case to the International Cycling Union (UCI) and cycling public. By all accounts it will be a bombshell that has serious ramifications for the sport. Not that he’s giving any indication of it worrying him, at all. I don’t care. Honestly. And I mean that. I wake up and my mind and my conscience and my view on my life and my world, my future and my kids’ future is perfectly clear. And I said it after my mountain bike race in Aspen when I raced. Nobody needs to be shedding any tears for me; I’ll find stuff to do. My foundation’s gonna keep rockin’, and my kids are going to remain unaffected. Movin’ on. While Armstrong may be moving on, most of us are not. Simply because we feel the sport desperately needs a reckoning. More so when you see men like Alexandre Vinokourov and Slava Ekimov taking charge of teams - both former professionals tainted by doping or their proximity to it.

There can be no resolution of what ails professional road cycling until a thorough accounting of the decade between 1999 and 2009 is made.

But maybe there is a clue to Armstrong’s thinking in an excellent and candid interview he recently gave to the Texas Daily Post, on the subject of cancer and comedy. There are plenty of people that are given zero chance to live and every day until the day they die they say they believe they’re going to make it. That’s the right way to think. Maybe that’s just the way of human beings or maybe that’s just something friends and family, doctors, and nurses instill in them. There are also situations we simply can’t fix under any circumstances. There aren’t necessarily miracles out there. I’ve never heard anybody say, “I’m not going to make it.’ Maybe at the very end, after the doctors have tried everything and you’ve bounced around from therapy from therapy. At that point, it’s healthy to say, ‘I did everything I could.’ That’s the place to be if you’re not going to make it. You want to know you did everything you could. You want to know you didn’t give up.While Armstrong maintains he doesn’t care about the outcome of the USADA’s case, his history suggests there is still a lot of fight left in him. I don't believe he's giving up, he's just trying to change the conversation to one that he feels he can win.



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