Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lance Armstrong's War

This is the title of the book which Wizheart gifted me last January with a simple dedication- “…to add to your collection of biographies of great sportsmen…”. As the author put it, this book is the extraordinary story of “ one man’s battle against fate, fame, love, death, doping  scandal, and a few other rivals on the road to the Tour de France.” He was stricken with cancer but fought and overcome it to win an unprecedented  record of 7 Tour de France titles. He seemed to win all these battles, except for one…. the doping accusation.

Lance Armstrong indeed is one of my sporting heroes in a sport considered among the most gruelling test of human endurance and skill, cycling. When we were young, we used to get excited during summers when the then annual Tour of the Philippines unfold and passed by our town.  I grew up idolizing  local heroes like  Abaquita, Moring, Reynante, etc. During fiestas, cycling also was one of the most awaited activities of the celebration. As I grew older therefore, this fascination with cycling continued. That’s how I came to know such cycling greats like Eddy Merckx, Greg Lemond and these past 10 years, Lance Armstrong and his closest rivals, Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso, and Miguel Orendain.

 We came to know the exploits of these great cyclists through the news we read. But the book revealed to me the hardships, trials, challenges, the preparation prior to the tours, the do’s and don’ts, the technology in making bicycles, the  inner workings etc. which made me conclude that this is one hell of a sport. That’s why, with all those achievements, I looked up to Lance Armstrong.

But today’s papers reported a disturbing news. Lance was found guilty of the doping charges by the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) and he will be banned from the sport for life ( which may have no effect at all as he has finally retired). Worst however, he will be stripped of his record 7 Tour de France titles and other titles and awards.  USADA said, Lance Armstrong was a dope cheat; that he used performance enhancing drugs from 1999-2005.

This accusation has actually been lingering for years now. Ever since, Lance denied all these accusations describing them as nonsense. He naturally has been blocking all the moves by the doping agency. Until now. Tired perhaps of fighting for his innocence saying it has taken great toll on his family, he surrendered. “Finished with this nonsense” he said. Now, the only thing left perhaps is the action of the International Cycling Union, the sports governing body.

Lance Armstrong- is he a sports hero or a dope cheat? Honestly, until this saga comes to a  final, unassailable conclusion, he still is my hero.