Armstrong. The mountain he couldn’t climb.

Lance. Mum to bitter end.

As we watch the staggering collapse of perhaps the greatest sports legend in history, we can’t help thinking about the mountain Armstrong couldn’t climb.

The Pyrenees and high Alps were easy for Armstrong and his Blue Train — and now we know why. Hors Categorie wasn’t a challenge but telling the truth proved a more difficult mountain.

It’s the high road he could still have taken but his ego would not allow. As we watch his sad free-fall, we think that even at the last minute he could have minimized the damage to a large degree.

The Boss should have been working on his admission speech since he knew that the USADA findings would go public. The game was up and no federal attorney would inexplicably save him at the last minute. He had 50 days to salvage a part of his reputation and try to reframe how people would react to the damning testimony.

Armstong knew the bombs that USADA would drop and he’s smart enough to figure out the implications. It was time to move from a denial strategy to a avoid core meltdown strategy. Like where all your longterm corporate sponsors terminate you a week later and the entire media declare you a sporting disgrace.

While his deceit and denials are monumental, there are plenty of people around the world who would have let him off easy for his inspirational work in the fight against cancer.

At this critical moment when his entire career was about to be re-written, Armstrong didn’t take the leadership role he was always so skilled at playing.

All Lance had to say was a variation on the Hincapie and Leipheimer admission. I apologize to my family, friends, teammates and fans. Like most everyone I raced against back then, none of us could compete without resorting to doping. I’m sad and sorry, yada-yada. Things would have been very bad for a while but generally people have short memories and Livestrong lives on.

He just couldn’t bring himself to tell the truth. Unlike Tyler Hamilton, he didn’t agree that the truth will set you free. Unlike Floyd Landis, he didn’t want his conscience back. Unlike everyone else on his US Postal team — with the glaring exception of Kevin Livingston — he sees no good reason to come clean. He won’t do it for himself or his kids or even the love of his sport. A sport that is ready for a deep cleanse with only one holdout, the most famous and influential rider of his generation.

Who doesn’t still have tremendous respect for Armstrong’s relentless efforts to battle cancer? Who still isn’t impressed with his energy, his good works, his desire to be a force for good?

That’s what makes this lost opportunity the real failure in this whole mess. The man could suffer with the best, dig deeper than almost anymore, push himself to physical and mental extremes but he could not let go of the lie — even when there was really no other course of action. The punch line US Postal liked to use in winning all those tours was the mail carrier line — “we deliver.” Everything but an admission.

There’s a long history of public rehabilitation here in the States — from Michael Vick and his pit bulls to Tiger Woods and his serial affairs. Those guys aren’t even on the same planet as Armstrong in terms of charity work.

Honestly, we can’t explain Armstrong’s unwillingness to finally admit doping without resorting to words like psychotic and blind arrogance. It simply goes too far beyond normal human behavior.

We’ll always wonder how things could ahve been different if Armstrong had take a different road home.

 

 

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=741090481 Jon Holmes

    Evidence of what happens when a boy grows up missing a dad’s voice of encouragement and acceptance. The Lance saga can only be understood when beginning at the point of understanding the impact of a very significant absence in his life. So significant that it left Lance vulnerable as a teen to come under the wings of greedy men who saw their opportunity for success and wealth coming through the expatiation of an exceptionally athletically talented boy from Plano. I really hope at the end of all this, that the full story is told and all the “players” percolate to the surface.

    • Erin

      Are you aware that about half the boys in the US grow up with single moms and without their fathers encouragement? And some of them do quite well, as does our president. Armstrong was not a poor kid from Plano. He was just working class family with a single mom. He was considered a punk at school because of his bad attitude. His mom should have put him to work with a part time job in high school so he could have learned responsibility. Instead, she worked 3 jobs to pay for all his bike gear. He was spoiled and self absorbed from an early age, peter pan( puer aetares )

      • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

        Erin, I’m one of those boys who grew up with no dad around. I had a great mom but it was a bummer not to have a father around. I can’t say if he was spoiled early on. He certainly had a chip on his shoulder from a young age. I think after he won his first TDF he became seduced by his own ego and power and soon lost all perspective. Matt

  • IWearSpandex

    I agree wholeheartedly. The unwillingness to admit to doping appears to be arrogance to the highest degree. Either that or he has given up completely on caring about his legacy (whatever is left) and turned his back on cycling forever.

  • Quancho

    Hate on, haters. He was still atop the podium for 7 TDFs in a row, beating all the other, slower riders. And never failed a single drug test.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Quancho, just one question: are you saying that after reading all the rider testimony of everyone on Lance’s Postal team that you believe he didn’t dope? Or are you just mad he got caught? Eye witness testimony is evidence — that’s a basic on the US Justice system. If you disagree with that, please contact the US Congress. Matt

    • DougMH

      He said, “With blinders firmly in place.”

      • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

        Love blinders but mostly on horses. Matt

    • cici

      But oui, he did fail drug test. What planet are you on?

      • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

        Cici, not everybody knows about the failed drug tests here in the States. Not everybody reads the USADA report. Matt

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  • Larry T.

    BigTex can milk his foundation for quite awhile – he’s a clever guy. Finished with cycling for sure, but the cancer-community is a wide-open, no pesky dope tests playing field. Those folks figure “everyone else doped too” and each and everyone of ‘em would take pretty much anything, legal or not, dangerous or not, it they thought it would help them beat cancer. Notice NONE of the sponsors who dropped BigTex said they were dropping his foundation – he can make millions from this as Nike and the others do the same. Truth is not important to these business decisions – it’s ALL about the $$.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      I can’t say what those financial arrangements will be at this point. It was a big money machine and certainly he’d like as much control of that as possible — even behind the scenes. Matt

  • STS

    The most important (for me) conclusion from reading Tyler Hamilton’s book was that Lance Armstrong is a psychopath. By which I mean that he’s ill and his view on parts of the world is not the same as ours. I doubt that there is anyone whom Lance wants to let him treat himself for this illness but he definitely needs therapy.

    So while I agree with you, Matt, that he should have confessed at the latest when all the others did, the point is probably that his illness doesn’t let him do it.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      I was beginning to have that feeling. The unwillingness to confess despite everyone else knowing the truth does have an element of psychosis to me. It’s just an ego that lost control. Matt

  • jaynie

    Quancho is a fool.

  • DougMH

    “Armstrong didn’t take the leadership role he was always so skilled at playing.” This is where EVERYONE, accept me of course, has made a mistake with Lance Armstrong. He’s NEVER been a leader, but ALWAYS been a bully. Huge distinction. Ask Emma O’Reilly. Ask David Walsh. Ask SCA. Ask the Sunday Times. Ask Filippo Simeoni. Ask Mike Anderson. Ask Christophe Bassons. Ask his teammates who were threatened with dope or go home threats. NONE of what he did was leadership.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Doug, nice slice on this. Yes, it wasn’t the right kind of leadership or rather negative leadership. Matt

  • cici

    Would those “greedy men” you referenced be Bill Stapleton and Bart Knaggs and their Tailwind scheme? They’d and Lance = 3 Stooges of CSE

  • cici

    Puer aerterus – peter pan syndrome

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      I find the Peter Pan thing amazing. One wore green tights, the other form-fitting lycra. Hmmmm. Matt