Hoping Lance stays mad
Comebacks are always fun and suggest athletes underestimate the joy of winning. Yes, there’s lots of training and sacrifice, but being the best in the world, literally a god, is an ephemeral gift in athletics. I’d savor it as long as possible. It’s an ego thing to retire undefeated, but why not go until someone beats you. You have the whole rest of your life to be normal. From a fan’s perspective this is more satisfying too. There’s no vacuum, no uncertainty, the crown is passed on, as it should be, in combat. “The King is dead! Long live the King!” gives both respect.Here’s hoping Lance Armstrong stays annoyed enough at the French newspaper L’Equipe to follow through on his threat to “unretire” and win the Tour De France a few more times just to stick it to them and further enhance his reputation.Not only would this ensure great TV coverage next summer, but it’s also raising the simple grudge to an inspired art form. Not often does one person get a chance to piss off an entire country and feel justified about it. Add in the still simmering political bickering between the U.S. and France and it’s perfect. Even though much of France admires and respects Mr. Armstrong and will be rooting for him, we shouldn’t let that get in the way of what should be some amazing prefight hype. Lance vs. France!Grudges are strange things. They usually affect the bearer much more than the target, but the satisfaction and sense of justice is worth it. L’Equipe would benefit hugely with the publicity, never-ending goading stories, controversy wherever they can find it, etc., jacking their circulation through the roof. I’m sure the editors are praying for a comeback. But none of this matters in grudges, which are emotional and very personal.Athletes are usually different than their cuddly PR image, and I’m sure Lance Armstrong is no exception, but who cares? Competitive cycling is a knife fight of fitness and pain. You have to be a vindictive SOB to cut your man down. Lance has no tolerance for those who smear him. Last year in the tour, he single handedly chased down a breaking-away Italian rider who’d dissed him in court. It was reminiscent of stories of cycling legend Edie “The Cannibal” Merckx, who controlled the whole field and you won only with his consent.Amazingly, the Italian courts looked into this as possible intimidation. Haven’t they ever watched an Italian soccer match? In between stamping their studs on each other’s shins, there’s a lot of back and forth banter, and it’s not of the “oh good shot, bad luck” type. Every one loves to look at the mistakes of others.A sad case of this is the Brazilian outcry over the tragic and wrongful shooting of a Brazilian on the London tube. The British police, mistaking him for a terrorist, made a series of rushed and bad decisions. Hopefully, they’ll change some procedures as a result. A Brazilian police team came over to investigate, too. Fine, but in Brazil the police force capably guns down thousands. Why not investigate those? It’s always easier to criticize failings in others than look inward and solve yours.Worryingly for Lance staying angry enough, the UCI is finally asking the right questions and taking the World Anti Doping Agency to task for condemning Armstrong on the strength of an unfounded newspaper article. L’Equipe is an irritating paper, celebrating Lance’s retiring with a nasty “phew, finally” type of headline and then showing a terrier-like grip to continue any and all drug allegations. But it’s doing what all sports media does. It stirs up controversy. Ever listened to sports radio or talk TV here?WADA has no excuse for its behavior. These samples are a B sample; i.e., the spare is gone so there’s no chance of a confirming test. This makes any allegation unfair. There’s no back-up test possible to remove the chance of mistakes, bias or tampering. WADA’s own policy requires two tests. These samples are from 1999 (before WADA existed), and the lab used them only as a convenient resource for research into new tests to detect the drug EPO. Strict anonymity was a condition for their use.WADA chairman Dick Pound’s zeal for clean sports turned him into a zealot here. If testing isn’t seen to be unscrupulously fair, it’s going to be hard to get athletes and countries to cooperate, since the stakes are huge. One positive test can effectively end your career. Unless you play baseball, where if you can say “I had no idea what steroid I was injecting” without laughing, you get to take a week off.The fact that a newspaper published anonymous research and the lab hasn’t confirmed L’Equipe’s claims doesn’t instill confidence. If a journalist can get access to anonymous samples, then obviously the system is not secure. Breaking promises doesn’t instill trust. Add in there’s no back-up sample to compare with, so nothing is provable and any release of information is a breach of privacy and pointless smearing. Equipe wants to smear as it sells papers, but WADA should be above that, apologizing for breach of privacy and trust.I’m hoping the Union Cyclist International statements don’t mollify Lance, and he comes back and wins. Not sure what the people who’ve written his name with a large 7 over it on the Vail Pass bike path will do then. Maybe start again from the bottom with every year’s winner. Then it would be historically informative and motivating as you spin upwards and towards the top if you’d get to see LANCE ARMSTRONG eight or ninetimes in a row, which makes the point much better than a number.Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily. This column, as in the case of all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.Vail, Colorado
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VAIL — The lift operator in the maze at Vail Village’s Gondola One tilts his head back and hollers: “Masks up please!”