Oprah will be well armed with plenty of direct questions when her interview with Lance Armstrong airs. There are no shortages of people to aid her choice of topics. As well, there is a 1000 page report from the USADA (US Anti- Doping Agency) that lays out their case against him relative to doping.
Doping in sport is probably the result of a numerous temptations and pressures. It is a complex reality similar to white collar crime, Wall Street shenanigans or the filing of false tax returns to the IRS.
Is this case different from past cyclists, baseball and track and field athletes who have fallen from grace? I have no first-hand knowledge of what happened in this case but I have followed the discussions closely and my questions are no longer did Lance dope. He is said to have admitted as much. In the professional peleton of cycling, bending rules and forms of cheating are said to have been a way of life going back decades. It is only a recent trend away from we hope we are seeing the last few years.
What I want to know, and hope that Oprah asks, is there more to this specific story than another athlete who used performance enhancing drugs? Former teammates of Armstrong reportedly have shared information that goes beyond one rider making some poor decisions. There are reports Lance blew the whistle on other riders in the professional peleton, essentially turning them in to testing authorities. Why would he do this?
As well, that Lance threatened other riders, sued newspapers for reporting on his activities, and he won. In the end, I want to know if Lance’s biggest deceit was not the drug taking or breaking of rules. Was he guilty of bullying other athletes or holding sway over governing bodies?
Three days ago a member of the International Olympic Committee hinted that cycling might be dropped from the Olympics if Lance’s confession uncovers complicity by cycling’s governing body. I want to stress that I am not implying that I know what has gone on in this case, but I do hope some of the questions are asked and answered. I want to believe the more outrageous reporting is unfounded.
On the flip side, I have been a huge Armstrong fan since 2001 when my daughter was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and underwent eleven months of chemotherapy and radiation for alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. We nearly lost her several times. Over the next four to five years we thought he cancer had returned; first in her bone and then her liver. Both would have meant her demise. I employed every emotional and supportive technique a father can do to save his 14 year old daughter’s life.
One of those things was holding up Lance as an example; not only his survival, but his fight to survive, his courage, his work with others, his unbelievable story of sporting success; and of course the Livestrong Foundation. I stayed up at night and read his books with her.
I may hate some of the things he is said to have done, but I will never be one of the Lance haters. There are a number of reasons I will closely watch the interview.
Dr Kevin Purcell, D.C., works with long course triathletes; from elite to those new to endurance sport. Coach KP has guided dozens of athletes to qualification to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, including over 15 IM age group championships. Dr. Purcell is certified in Active Release Technique (ART). Coach KP retired from competition in 2006.