For those of you who believed in fairytales

I promised myself at the very beginning of this thing with Lance Armstrong that when Phil Liggett goes I go.

This is for a few reasons. First of all is the obvious one: Phil Liggett seems like just about the best bloke in history and should probably be listened to whenever he speaks he speaks about cycling, particularly when he speaks of the soul of the sport. Second of all the guy’s been watching Lance, and all the others, for years, and had a special kind of respect for him. He was reluctant to admit Lance did it, probably because he didn’t want to believe he had done it. I felt the same way.

The relationship between a commentator and an athlete is a funny one, and in the case of the Liggett-Armstrong relationship, a long one. There’s always an element of man-crush about it, but Liggett is a legend of the sport despite never having competed. He’s well thought of by those who listen.

He is referred to as ‘The voice of cycling.’ If this man is the voice, then surely he speaks from the heart of the sport. I wouldn’t say Phil speaks from the head. Phil is too pure to speak from the head. The head of the metaphorical cycling man is too corrupt.  The brains of the sport are in too deep to speak as Phil did.

So when Liggett said that he’s off the Lance-Wagon, I bailed too.

Let me reiterate, though, that I am reluctant to jump. Not because I don’t think he’s guilty. Not because what he did wasn’t wrong. The fact is it was so very wrong, and Lance knew it. I just wish he hadn’t.

In his speech after he won the 2005 Tour de France he criticised people who criticised him, saying they didn’t believe in miracles and were poorer for it.

The fact is that Lance Armstrong would have been the best thing to ever happen to cycling if he was clean. The fact that he cheated doesn’t vindicate anyone, particularly journalists with 20-20 hindsight. In some ways it only makes us poorer for having no one to believe in.

He was the man who won seven tours in a row, clean. He beat the cheats in their own backyard. He rose to the top and stayed there for longer than anyone else in the history of the sport. He dominated what I consider to be the hardest sporting event on the planet. He was the greatest this gruelling sport had ever seen, and there was daylight to second place. It was a real life miracle.

Or a fairytale.

It turns out that it was too much to ask for someone to beat the cheats without cheating himself. In no way am I justifying what he did by saying that he was only doing what everyone else did. I am simply saying that he was the man who we all thought could. I think sadness is just as appropriate a response as outrage.

The USADA report paints Lance as a bully; a ruthless individualist who will do anything to attain personal profit and glory. He manipulated and bullied the media into not reporting or retracting stories accusing him of doping. He bullied those who spoke out against him, and bullied his teammates into cooperating with the team doping policy.

He was the leader of the most sophisticated doping scheme in cycling history. He’s to blame for it all.

I didn’t know any of this was true before the USADA report. Then again, I didn’t realise Tiger Woods was a rampant sex maniac before his fall from grace in 2009. I think that, like Tiger, this image will be adjusted over time.

Like the reports of Tiger’s infidelity, I think the depiction of Lance as a bully who only wants what is good for himself will slowly recede in severity as his account is released and time runs its anger-cooling course.

People will begin to remember his charity work, which undoubtedly is a great thing that he has done for humanity, not just cycling, and many would argue is his greatest achievement (it certainly is now). Whether it was founded and nurtured under false pretences, and whether the means justify the end is certainly another point to debate, and may lead to another media storm. Another storm that will eventually rain itself out.

It may even come to pass, like it did with the Tiger, that people will actually start wishing him well again, and applaud him for his success in other ventures.

People will start to forgive him eventually.

The obvious question that really burns in all this is why has Lance refused to say anything? He could be writing his admission book, which will no doubt sell a load of copies and add fuel to the accusations of him being a money-hungry narcissist. He may be preparing some sort of statement that will not implicate him in anything legal, but admits his guilt. Who knows?

There have been some journalists (journalists I wasn’t even aware were cycling journalists, until now conveniently) who have said that his time has passed. It is too late to respond now, they say.

Why is that? Where is the arbitrary line that you drew that denotes the precise point when it was too late for an accused man to stand up and respond to these very serious allegations about the very fabric of his being; his life’s work? Or is it just because he didn’t fit in with your paper’s news values that his time has passed?

Take all the time you need Lance, but please direct your words toward the Phil Liggetts more than anyone else; those to whom you promised a miracle, and delivered this.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Diablo on October 23, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Excellent article. Phil Liggett seems to be playing the role of cycling’s parent… He’s not mad, he’s just disappointed.

    I still reckon that even though he’s done all this great charity work that he’s been a massive douche throughout all of this. And this is coming from someone who only lost faith in Lance in the past fortnight. All the money he’s made from personal endorsements and even little things like his cameo appearance in the movie Dodgeball now make me more angry than anything else. How he could cash in on the idea that he did it through nothing but hard work is beyond me, particularly when you consider that so many people were either involved in it or knew personally that he cheated.

    Long story short, great charity worker but a pretty ordinary bloke.


    • Ha! “Ordinary bloke.” Been a long time since I’ve heard that. I will reserve judgement on his personality until he says something. Still, it’s hard to see how he could be viewed as anything but an ordinary bloke, no matter what he says.


  2. Great post and I share many of the same feelings, including adoration of Phil whose voice and mind we love in our household. One of the many real mistakes Lance has made has been his public dismantling of anyone who criticised him up to now.


  3. Posted by Tom on October 23, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Read these two articles:
    Liggett is supposedly a journalist, and he utterly failed in his job – i.e. providing objective coverage of the sport. How on earth can Liggett and Paul Sherwen justify going into business with someone they are supposed to be reporting on?


  4. […] « For those of you who believed in fairytales […]


  5. Posted by Simon on October 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    my problem with Phil and Paul is that a large amount of what has come out in the last few weeks is not new information. Any half interested cycling fan has known a lot of this for years which makes it very hard to believe that Phil and Paul were not aware of a fairly large part of it. In light of this I find their close association with Lance to be at best a case of very poor judgement, and at worst downright cynical. How to deal with making comment about past champions performances you knew were probably tainted was a hard enough decision without complicating it by being in bed with said champion financially.

    Phil only jumped ship when his position became completely untenable. Call me a cynic (hard for a cycling fan not to be) but that decision smacked more of maintaining his (mainstream media) credibility than some fatherly unwillingness to accept the truth.


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