This morning, while doing my stretches and getting dressed for work, I was listening to the news.
I heard what I'm sure you've all heard by now: Lance Armstrong, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, has admitted to using banned substances.
To me, it's interesting that Winfrey said he "did not come clean in the manner I expected". Of course, I won't know what she meant by that until I see the interview. She said he "was ready" and "met the moment."
Now, I have to wonder what made him "ready" for a "confession". And why did it take an interview with Oprah for him to "come clean".
While I am willing--however reluctantly--to believe his confession and guilt, I find it interesting, to say the least, that it's taken so long for anyone to establish his guilt. It seems that athletes in other sports--baseball in particular-- who were using banned substances were found out more quickly than Lance was.
On the other hand, I don't think I have to wonder why there was so much more pressure on him to confess than there has been for other cyclists. The first five-time winner of the Tour De France, Jacques Anquetil, once said something to the effect that nobody ever won the Tour on salad and mineral water.
Other cyclists have admitted that doping was rampant in the sport. But, none of them won the Tour seven times. And none of them was American. What's more, none of them did it the way Lance did it: He concentrated on winning the tour to the exclusion of many other races, including classics like Paris-Nice. That is in marked contrast to riders like Eddy Mercx and Bernard Hinault who, between them, won about 400 more races than Armstrong did.
Plus, he managed to rankle other cyclists, including his teammates, in ways that no other winner did. To be sure, they all provoked envy among the riders they defeated, and the ones who served as domestiques on their teams. But, as fiercely competitive as they were on their bikes, they were gentlemen off their bikes. Armstrong, from what I've heard and read, was cocky and often arrogant. Now, I'm not saying that's a good reason to accuse him or to get him to confess. But I think that other cyclists, as well as the sport's officials, wanted to see him brought down in ways they never wanted to see their old heroes dethroned.
Whatever their motives for bringing Lance to "justice", and whatever his motives for confessing, this is still a very sad time for the sport. After all, he is one of the few larger-than-life personalities the sport has produced. Other cyclists, like the ones I've mentioned and Miguel Indurain, were lionized for their athletic prowess. But even Indurain himself admitted he wasn't much of a story when he wasn't pedaling. As he once told a journalist, "My hobby is sleeping."
I believe that the sport will continue even after Lance has been, in effect, excommunicated from it. But it won't be the same. About the only person who will benefit, I think, is Oprah. To be exact, her network will benefit. After all, some people will look for it on their cable boxes for the first time.