As a sports journalist Mike Tomalaris has covered many of the greats and he finds Lance Armstrong stands out as an examplary ambassador for cycling.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

I haven't helped noticing the small number of cycling aficionados who
criticise commentators continuously "banging on" about Lance Armstrong
and what he has brought to the sport during his incredible life and
career.

I can never understand why SBS cycling gurus Phil
Liggett and Paul Sherwen are targeted (by a minority) for being biased
whenever Lance jumps on his bike and pedals to victory.

Last
night, I was one of a select 70 people invited to meet the Armstrong
and hear him speak in a relaxed setting in Adelaide organised for
members of major sponsors of the Santos Tour Down Under.

It was a casual, sit-down, Oprah Winfrey-type 40 minute interview conducted by one of the best in the business, Bruce McAvaney.

Now
Bruce is well-regarded for his research in all sports he covers and
this was no different. We got to learn about Lance's love for life,
family, friends, politics, cycling and everything in between.

It was simply fascinating!

I've
always felt Lance as being a cut above-your-average sportsman who
presents himself better than most and capable of holding an audience in
the palm of his hand.

When he talks, those in the room listen to his every word, and I'm not one to be starstruck by sporting heroes.

In
a career dating back to the mid 1980s, I've been fortunate to cross
paths with the likes of football greats such as Diego Maradona, Jurgen
Klinsmann, Roberto Baggio and Kenny Dalglish to name a few, in my
travels covering World Cup tournaments.

For me, the above names
are champions of their sport but none ever really struck me as being
ambassadors of the human race - that is a trait Lance certainly
possesses.

I've had the privilege of speaking to Lance at a
professional capacity as a journalist for SBS on the hot roads when
covering his tracks during his reign as Tour de France champion.

Last
night there was no TV camera anywhere in sight and I didn't have to
thrust a microphone in his face to have him explain about his latest
conquest.

I guess I fit in the category of those who have always
admired Lance, and I confess, I have done so unashamedly. I feel his
amazing record in life and sports speaks for itself.

But, as a I
say, it seems not everyone is convinced the seven time Tour de France
winner has earned his stripes as a legend without cheating his way to
the top.

Well, if Lance is guilty for cheating the spirit of
sport it's never been proven, and until that day arrives I will always
admire a guy who has changed the face of cycling to what it is today.