I sit at my computer quite late on a Friday night (Saturday morning actually) at the end of a week that saw an American icon, a role model for many young and old, admit to being a deeply flawed human being. Yes I saw the interview like 28,000,000 other people did. Sure I was disappointed hearing that a man that my son grew up admiring, my wife and I watching his career blossom, and as we live in France, taking his back many times in the past 13 or so years saying quite strongly that no he didn’t use performance enhancing drugs, get over it he won your race fairly and squarely. I can smile now at the postman in Brittany back in 2003 nodding his head smugly and miming a man taking an injection saying just two words, “Armstrong, doppage!” The only dope there was me vehemently protesting his innocence. Well I was wrong and Lance said it loud and clearly while the world watched.
We live in France so I didn’t have access to the live interview. I did have access to all the news media taking apart his apology, analising his every word and nuance, and forming their own opinions on his contriteness and his reasons for coming out and openly admitting it. So when I finally found a way to access the interview a few days later I had already formed an opinion from those other’s opinions, but an hour and forty minutes later, I felt bad for the guy, I know he’s arrogant now and always has been, he ruined many lives along his delusional world to the top echelon of cycling, but as he said many times he is and will be paying the price for a long time, and it is a process. More importantly it made me think about my character flaws and what right do I have that gives me the arrogance to sit in judgement?
To finish the title of this blog, “….To forgive divine.” Well when I was in Sierra Leone this past Autumn (funnily enough when all the news about Lance was really heating up) I lived and worked with people who needed to find forgiveness and move on if they were to survive as a country, and they did. I worked with people telling me horror stories of their brutal war and its atrocities, and then pointing out someone who was that rebel who killed their best friend, but also telling me that he had forgiven the man for his deeds, but will never forget. For me that is a powerful thing to do. I don’t think Lance is asking anyone to forget, to my memory he didn’t ask the 28,000,000 viewers to forgive him either, but he does know the rest of his days he will be seeking forgiveness from his ex-wife, his children, former friends and team mates and the list goes on. His task isn’t an easy one, but neither is ours. Once again we were let down by someone who inspired – a come back so beautiful – from the deathbed to the podium in Paris that we wanted to believe it, and so did Lance. His confession was a tough and wonderful gesture, especially for an arrogant superstar plus with the world watching, I admire that. How many of us reading this right now have had to apologise for maybe even worse offences than taking drugs to win a bike race; an extra marital affair, a slap in the face, years of excessive drinking, wrecking the car, stealing cash from the till at work, the list goes on. The difference being our wife, children, parents, friends or employers were the only ones listening, not 28,000,000 others.
Will I forgive Lance Armstrong, I already have, will I forget what he did? No. My wife and I were touring in France on our bikes in 1999 and were at the stage when he took the Yellow Jersey for the first time. We were at nearly every other Tour de France, bar one, holding up our signs saying “Go Lance” with my son who was in utero at the first Tour in 1999 but out in the real world with all its ups and downs for every other Tour. I read Lance’s books, watched the videos of him winning with my family who enjoy watching the occasional cycle racing video, but they really loved to watch Lance, there was a connection there. We all saw him in flesh and blood cycle past inches away from our feet.
I actually must take this time and say thank you to Lance Armstrong. What a great lesson for me, my family and children to learn. We all eventually will make mistakes, some we’ll never admit to, and some we may be forced to admit, and others we may just plain want to come clean on. I think Lance was probably in that middle category of being forced, and I even liked his honesty of admitting quite plainly that if his hand wasn’t forced and the situation didn’t come to light he wouldn’t have confessed to the world, but what a lucky chance he had. Maybe there are those hidden lies or mistakes we’d like to admit, but never will because we don’t have to. Maybe we’ll think back to the week Lance admitted his wrongdoing and it will help us to avoid telling a small lie, or come clean before we are forced to, that would be nice.
I won’t throw away his videos and equally will probably watch them on a cold rainy night when I need some inspiration to get out for a bike ride. In my book his story is still incredible, and after this week, even more inspirational. He recounted being nearly dead from cancer and that fighting spirit he used to combat the disease served him well then, but the same spirit conquered him in his quest to dominate the cycling world. He was caught up in rationalisation, arrogance, delusion and didn’t want to settle for second best, but of course hind sight would show him, and all of us, how much stronger it would have been to come out with the truth after his first win, much easier said then done. If he had been one of the silent heroes, as he put it, who never used the drugs, would that have been better? I am not sure. We were given a hero, and then shown his human flaws, and on Lance’s journey his life, former colleagues, children, mother, and others have suffered and will continue to, but those he inspired through his conquest of cancer, still live on, so like most things in life we enter the large area of greyness.
I am getting tired but won’t wait to post this until I check over for my many mistakes I have typed in my grogginess of sleep depravity. Those mistakes are human and I apologise to any of you out there offended by bad punctuation and spelling errors. Hey that was easy. I admitted being human, making mistakes, and made ammends quite quickly. I hope all 28,000,000 of you reading this can find it in your hearts to forgive me, and move on, maybe even thank me for exposing my humanity.