The Lance Armstrong Legend went up in smoke all around the world after the USADA report. Last night in Edenbridge in Kent, England, the Legend was handled with more symbolic effect.
At their traditional Bonfire Night festivities, locals burnt a 30 foot Armstrong in effigy. Mark Fabiani, Armstrong’s PR Master of Disaster, was not there with a fire hose to extinguish the blaze.
Armstrong admitted at his 15 year Livestrong Gala in Austin, Texas, that the last few weeks had been “difficult.” That was before the UCI put their rubber stamp on the stripping of his seven Tour de France titles, the exit of all his sponsors, the pile-up of lawsuits and the loss of his key to the city of Adelaide, Australia. Now, he’s also a smoldering heap in a field in England.
The bonfire effigy reminded Twisted Spoke of another unpopular Texan who received similar treatment in Europe and around the world — former US President George Bush. By the end of his second term in office, Bush had perhaps the lowest popularity poll numbers in US history and outside the country he was universally hated.
It’s hard to say how far down Armstrong will fall before he hits bottom. The fall-out from the USADA “Reasoned Decision” continues to send out shockwaves, revelations, firings, sponsor exits, lawsuits, self-examinations and general destruction from Austin, Texas to Aigle, Switzerland.
The president and former president of the UCI, the sport’s governing body, find themselves under intense pressure to resign amidst charges of corruption and incompetence. Their pathetic SLAPP lawsuit again journalist and anti-doping crusader Paul Kimmage has backfired so badly that they’ve put it on hold. Meanwhile Kimmage now has a donation-based defense fund of over $85,000 and he has decided to counter-sue.
This morning compression gear manufacturer and cycling sponsor SKINS launched an extraordinary $2 million dollar lawsuit against the UCI over mismanagement of the doping issue. Sponsors like Rabobank are leaving the sport while others are taking the UCI to court.
The sport of pro cycling is on its knees and waiting what what could be the Euro versions of the USADA report. The two year Italian Padua investigation has targeted a doping ring said to involve as many as twenty riders. The Spanish are finally ready to give their own doping scandal, Operacion Puerto, one more legal shot.
Given the dramatic force of the revelations in the USADA report, there is extra pressure on those anti-doping authorities in Europe to show no mercy. Travis Tygart showed professional cycling how you can bring even the most powerful cyclist of all time to justice. It’s only human nature for the folks in Europe to say hey, we can do it, too.
Burning Lance Armstrong in effigy in a field in England is more than symbolic. You could argue that the entire sport is burning down right now. But after the fire, the rebirth.