Why does Lance Armstrong polarise opinion the way he does? And could this be a future topic of an ethics thesis in years to come, muses Anthony Tan?
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

The news story on Armstrong's Twittered ride Saturday in Adelaide, was,
judging by the number of comments on various cycling and news Web sites
around the world, the most read story that day from the 2010 Santos Tour
Down Under.

Other than the "Armstrong abandons internal testing
program" news item, of course. But I'll get to that later.

Commentary on VeloNews' Web site, one of the cycling publications
I'm working for at the race, ranged from "Lance is a phenomenon" to
"What an egomaniac".

Furthermore, the moderators of the
American-owned print and online journal were accused of not publishing
certain comments - most likely inflammatory and highly derogatory.

At his official pre-TDU press conference Saturday, he answered all
questions with the aplomb we expect from him.

One thing I will
give Lance is that when he listens, he nods in acknowledgement - that he
understands, not that he agrees or disagrees with you - and when he
responds, in agreeing or not, he looks the journalist in the eye.

I like that - it shows a mutual respect some other riders don't show.
One of which comes to mind is Franco Pellizotti, who responds to
questions with a tone of scant interest, staring at the ceiling or
nervously looking sideways or down - but almost never at the journalist.
Why is that? Has he something to hide

Anyway, back to Lance.

What the majority of pundits do say about him is that in societies such
as ours and America's, we give the person the benefit of the doubt, and
one is innocent till proven guilty.

Should Lance be any different, simply because he won seven Tours in a
row and in doing so, pissed off a bunch of Froggies who have failed to
produce a winner since Bernard Hinault in 1985?

I don't think
so. And are the people who continue to chase him, who continue to dig up
dirt but come up with nothing but soil and sore hands, in a position to
judge, simply because they're a journalist from so-and-so and lots of
people read what they write?

Again, my answer's an unequivocal

In fact, as I've mentioned before in a blog some time ago on
Cycling Central, it is the responsibility of the journalist to delve
and to satisfy the public interest, but it is also the
responsibility of the journalist to behave responsibly, and not chase an
animal down till its legs grow tired, then shoot them down with a
machine-gun when they can run no longer, regardless of their guilt or

I'm sure when Lance Armstrong makes that decision to
finally retire, be it at the end of this year or next, many of those who
chased him without result will miss him.

And if they're honest, they'll probably say to themselves, "Well, that
was a waste of my time I won't get back".

I am not asking you to
be a sycophant, or a fan of Lance who waits with baited breath to join
him on his next Twittered ride.

But just as I expect my peers to
write responsibly, I ask Armstrong's detractors to act responsibly, and-
even though I'm agnostic - do unto others as you would like them to do
unto you, to quote the Bible.