Lance was always going to return to racing no matter how many times USADA CEO Travis Tygart slapped him down. Tygart may be in charge of Lance’s redemption but the boss still believes there’s a workaround to get back in the game, baby.
News that he might take on Aussie triathlete Chris McCormack in a one-on-one battle that Tygart can’t derail should come as no surprise. Anybody who knows Lance — and don’t we all after the Reasoned Decision and Oprah? — would understand that one way or another Armstrong will find a way to compete.
Tygart stripped Lance of his seven Tour de France titles and barred him from competing for life in any sport governed by the WADA code. That meant Armstrong couldn’t do the Leadville 100 mountain bike race or a Masters swimming event or enter a single Ironman competition. Sometimes it seemed that the Boss couldn’t even play in a pickup basketball game in his own Austin, Texas driveway.
We’re confident that Armstrong’s lawyers have been working on ideas to create some kind of athletic competition series beyond the control of USADA and WADA ever since he was banned. With Armstrong’s riches — even with all his lawsuits and legal settlements — he could simply take his bike and swim googles and make his own events. He might even invent an entirely new professional sport — whatever it takes.
According to reports, McCormack, the 2007 and 2010 world Ironman champion, beat Armstrong to the punch by reaching out to challenge him to a mano-a-mano Triathlon For Two.
“I said ‘I will race you, mate.’ I don’t even care if there are no accolades. No one around. I just want to race you. Just two old blokes. No excuses,’” McCormack said. “Lance has done some horrible things and some amazing things athletically, but he is still a competitor and I have always been inspired by racing competitors. He’s a prickly personality and I would love to go around and have a crack at him.”
It appears that Lance is more than willing to take the bait — because, really, you can’t spend all day, everyday with your legal team trying to fend off all the multi-million dollar lawsuits. He needs to get out there and sweat and with a media spotlight in sight, he’s got extra motivation.
You have to wonder what possible sponsors might consider funding a part of this shindig. Too early for Nike and Oakley to come back to the Armstrong camp but you never know. There’s always some aggressive marketing exec that wants to meet Armstrong in person and all it takes is a good-sized check. Some companies like that bad-boy image and view negative publicity as a positive.
And who will put this out in the media? Would ESPN or Fox Sports or Universal Sports be willing to pony up some money to throw it on a webcast? Or is this more of a reality-type freak show, an athletic oddity for the curious, a triathlon version of a car wreck — you don’t want to look, but you can’t help yourself?
While others might find the proposition to be half-hoax, Armstrong is taking the offer on face value. In response to McCormick, he tweeted: “Hey @MaccaNow – if you’re serious then gimme a call. Let’s discuss.”
The thing is, Armstrong doesn’t do anything for free so there has to be some money behind this that isn’t out of his own bank accounts. We keep wondering who will bankroll this. It just seems too early for a commercial re-embrace of the disgraced super-star.
Perhaps this is one of those cart-before-the-horse situations. Of late, Armstrong has been making more serious, concerted attempts to apologize to those he crushed but he’s not far enough down the road yet. He hasn’t raised his F rating yet — the forgiveness factors that would permit sponsors to jump behind Armstrong without a firestorm of bad press.
That’s not to say Armstrong and McCormack can’t pull off this triathlon stunt. Just that it won’t really be an “event” until the redemption gains traction.