By Lyndon Ferguson
It has, in his own words, been ‘a difficult couple of weeks’ for Lance Armstrong. Accustomed to crushing his rivals with barely concealed fury, he finds himself taking hit after hit. Out-muscled, out-manoeuvred, defenses completely overwhelmed. Maybe it’s time to think outside the box and even outside the continent.
Rumors are circulating that Armstrong may turn his back on his beloved Texas and jump sinking ship for Spain. Ahh, Spain, last great bastion of respect for a convicted doper in a cruel and unfair world. Tapas, Rioja, no Travis Tygart or Floyd Landis.
In an unconfirmed report, Armstrong has stated, ‘the US system is biased and damaged, only in a country like Spain can an innocent man like me expect fair treatment. I have friends there – Miguel, Alejandro, Juan Jose, Sammy Sanchez. They know I won those tours, bread and water or otherwise.”
According to friends, Armstrong sees Spain as a place where cyclists can live their lives in peace, without the constant intrusion and accusations. Where the authorities respect their great athletes, and wouldn’t dream of subjecting them to the ‘embarrassment’ of a doping scandal.
Lance has never tested positive in Spain (come to think of it, has anyone tested positive in Spain since Roberto Heras?) The fact is, Lance’s conscience is clear, just like all Spanish cyclists. In a word, it sounds like home.
Initial speculation puts Armstrong and his family in luxury accommodations in Gerona. A move to the Catalan city would be a return to his earliest days at US Postal and perhaps the special memories hold an extra appeal.
“Nothing’s been decided yet as far as location. Obviously, Gerona was like a second home,” said real estate agent Emilia Cruz, who has shown the former seven time Tour winner around town. “Lance just wants to be happy, for his family to be happy and not subjected to the constant negativity of the media.”
This week has seen supportive remarks from former Postal teammate Chechu Rubiera of Spain. Perhaps Armstrong will find himself in Rubiera’s hometown of Gijón in Asturias. It’s also possible he may look in nearby Oviedo and Avilés. While he was born in Texas and was once one of the most popular athletes in US history, he may now receive a warmer welcome in Spain.
“Lance loves Spain, the culture, the laid back attitudes, the relaxed attitude about doping in sports. There’s no Livestrong office in Spain so realistically he could pick his spot — even San Sebastian in the Basque region,” said Cruz. “Although that’s close to the French border and you know how he feels about France.”
Armstrong may also consider the Navarre region in the Northern part of Spain. Five time Tour winner Miguel Indurain is from the area and remains, despite all damning evidence to the contrary, a firm supporter of the former tour winner. Indurain has been confused by the findings of the USADA “reasoned decision” and said this week “common sense tells me that something isn’t right.” He would be delighted to have Lance right in his backyard and over for a barbecue.
Another outside possibility would be Madrid. A residence in the capital city would give the Armstrong family a big city feel and plenty of cultural opportunities. He would also be just down the road from Pinto, home of former teammate Alberto Contador. The top Spanish stage racer, who returned this year from a two year doping ban, is also full of “respect” for the former champion.
A move to Spain may also simplify Armstrong’s dire financial situation after USADA and later the UCI stripped his seven tour titles. SCA Productions wants the $7.5 million back that they paid Armstrong on an incentives policy for winning those seven tours. There’s also the whistle-blower lawsuit filed by former teammate Floyd Landis and several other financial lawsuits stemming from Armstrong’s doping and subsequent coverup. By relocating to Europe and Spain he may well escape his creditors.
In just two short weeks Lance Armstrong has lost his seven Tour de France titles, at least $30 million in sponsorship deals and witnessed the destruction of his sports legend. If perhaps he is also ready to lose his hometown of Austin, Texas, it would not be a dramatic surprise.
“Lance is a citizen of the world, Juan Pelota would be more than happy in Spain,” said longtime Livestrong coordinator Brian Calvert. “He is free to go wherever people love and respect and understand him. Right now, I’d guess that’s Spain.”
Adios Texas, Hola Espana!