Armstrong's deadly sins a chilling reminder that the truth always comes out
CYCLING:There was no shortage of responses when David Walsh took to Twitter looking for suggestions that might make a suitable title for his story of chasing down the truth about Lance Armstrong – all the truth of which, we now know, adds up to one big lie.
How about ‘Truth In Remission’, or ‘The Legend Of Blagger Lance’, ‘LiAr’ or ‘Silence Of The Lance’, or even ‘50 Shades Of Bullshit’? In the end, Walsh settled on Seven Deadly Sins, perfectly suitable too, given Armstrong was, at various stages of his career, guilty of all seven of them: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and even gluttony.
Armstrong wasn’t, however, the only one. When the United States Anti-Doping Agency published their “Reasoned Decision” back in October, with evidence that showed “beyond any doubt” that “the US Postal Service pro cycling team ran the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”, Armstrong’s days were numbered, and so too were many of his fellow cyclists from that era.
While Armstrong remained coldly defiant, many of his team-mates finally woke up to the reality. In his book, The Secret Race, Tyler Hamilton confessed to the near inevitability of succumbing to performance-enhancing drugs, given their prevalence in the peloton. Not that this was any excuse, Hamilton agreed, and the UCI, the governing body of world cycling, had no choice but to strip Armstrong of his seven successive Tour de France titles, won between 1999 and 2005. It was a catastrophic fall from grace for Armstrong, all he represented in and outside the sport of cycling, and a chilling reminder that the truth always comes out in the end.
Element of wrath
Denial is often a sin in itself, but there was an element of wrath, too, in the way Irish marathon runner Martin Fagan also succumbed to performance-enhancing drugs, the positive test for which emerged at the start of January. Already broken by a series of injuries, and financially too, Fagan tested positive for erythropoietin, one of the most conventional and readily detected methods of performance enhancing, better known as EPO.
Fagan had willingly taken it too, ordering the EPO on the internet, then administering it to himself at his training base in Arizona, in such grimly crude circumstances that he felt the low of the junkie. The wrath he was feeling at the time was at least partly to do with another truth that he needed to face up to, that he had become clinically depressed.
For Fagan to confess to the cheating on himself and his sport was the easy part; what wasn’t so easy was dealing with the depression, the way some people were interpreting it, yet in the end telling the truth took him to a better place.