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ChazWood
06-28-2014, 08:26 AM
Lance Armstrong - Descent (http://thepointmag.com/2014/examined-life/descent-lance-armstrong-decline-cycling)

Found this piece insightful and wanted to share it here.

An excerpt:

Until the autumn of 2012, Lance Armstrong was almost universally heralded as a champion of the human spirit and a sportsman whose personal and professional accomplishments were nothing short of heroic. Handsome, intelligent, charismatic, seemingly fearless and thrown into adversity from infancy, he was tailor made from the fabric of rags to riches American folklore. When Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer he was a young professional who had already managed to capitalize on his personal appeal in a sport that was on the margins of America’s collective consciousness. But emerging from the grip of death imbued Armstrong’s story with a powerful humanitarian and spiritual dimension, laying the groundwork to transform an American folk hero into the centerpiece of an international mythology.

In an economic climate that coincided with the rise of globalization and the dawn of the information age, Armstrong’s transcendent appeal presented corporations and marketing firms with an enticing opportunity to build a heroic twenty-first century brand. They did, and with each of his seven Tour de France victories the Armstrong brand accumulated financial and political resources previously unseen in the sport of cycling—sustained in large part by a semblance of virtuous idealism affording Armstrong the kind of moral currency traditionally reserved for martyrs and saints. But the mythology, the brand, the wealth, the humanitarianism and the sainthood were built on false pretenses. This month Armstrong testifies under oath as part of a fraud case filed against him by SCA Promotions, a Dallas-based sports insurance company.

Lance Armstrong - Descent (http://thepointmag.com/2014/examined-life/descent-lance-armstrong-decline-cycling)

djflex
06-28-2014, 08:32 AM
Well, at least he got to put it in sheryl crow...

CropDusterMan
06-28-2014, 08:43 AM
When I was racing amateur (bicycles) in Europe in the '90's, drugs were rampant...and the big one was EPO, along with amphetamines. Each rider on the team would show up to our meeting points,
usually with their parents or girlfriend in order for us to all travel together in the team cars and vans. Every one of us would have a tacklebox, which contained vitamins, ointments, bandages
and a plethora of other items a rider would use for recuperation. It became a joke, as to who had the larger tacklebox. As a new rider on the team, I had a shaving kit bag in my duffel, and guys
teased me in fun, when I asked them what was in the tackle box...."Vie" they would reply (French word for "Life"). I wondered what was in these boxes...and as we all shared rooms on the road,
I sure did learn. "This is hexaquine, and you take that when you begin getting cramps, and it goes away...these special syringes are short, so they fit in your jersey pocket easier and you can
charge up during the race...these ones are powerful painkillers...this is cortisone"...on and on it went.

This is where drug use begins, and all of the teams are usually run by a "Directeur Sportif", or manager, who was usually a retired pro rider, not usually upper echelon, but a good pro from his day.
There is a wealth of knowledge passed on to the riders, and let me tell you, there is nobody clean in todays pro ranks. I don't care what efforts are made to clean up cycling and other high level sport,
drug use is rampant and it always will be. When the world made a fuss about Lance and the EPO, I just laughed...ok, I thought, the world is now just catching on!

When I lived in Belgium, I often trained with a retired Pro who was managing an American team in the 90's....I asked him once, what's the greatest advancement in cycling history, expecting to hear
about equipment....he said "EPO". LOL That always struck me...how quickly and off the cuff he said that.

I am split on the whole Lance deal personally...after all, Pro cycling is not sport...it's a moving advertisement, it's a multi million dollar Machine...your average team in the Tour has a budget in excess of
$15 to 20 Million. We buy the bikes the riders ride, we drink the supplements they advertise on their jerseys, etc. It's no different than Pro Football, or Wrestling.

Keep this in mind...Lance raised millions of dollars with his foundation for Cancer Research, and you can bet that there are many cancer survivors who clung to his accolades for motivation to beat
their illness and survived.

I think, that if anyone in life deserves a "pass", maybe it's Lance.

Just my opinion.

djflex
06-28-2014, 08:48 AM
I have no ill will towards lance. I heard he is a prick , but who knows. People who think he only won because of the drugs are beyond naive. Use is widespread beyond what the media plays out. Personally, i hope he can put all this behind him and live his life..

Karl_Hungus
06-28-2014, 10:23 AM
I have no ill will towards lance. I heard he is a prick , but who knows. People who think he only won because of the drugs are beyond naive. Use is widespread beyond what the media plays out. Personally, i hope he can put all this behind him and live his life..

I think it is kind of ridiculous how hard everyone is coming down on the guy. I would be surprised if ANY of the top finishers are clean. To say that Lance Armstrong cheated his way to the top, while all of his fellow cyclists were doing the exact same thing is silly.

keyboardworkout
06-28-2014, 10:25 AM
Lance goofed. He should have never admitted anything. He was doing fine following the old rules.

"Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter accusations."

whatevergirl
06-28-2014, 10:25 AM
I'm reminded of this ...lol

RfutD4H8peQ


Being serious though...I think that as a culture, we're often fascinated with celebs, famous folks when they 'fall from grace.' I've always been pretty neutral on Lance Armstrong, but he's no doubt accomplished a lot and has done a lot in terms of helping the fight against cancer. When he hit bottom, I didn't gloat. It just shows, he's human like the rest of us. :o

Brackneyc
06-28-2014, 10:32 AM
I think it is kind of ridiculous how hard everyone is coming down on the guy. I would be surprised if ANY of the top finishers are clean. To say that Lance Armstrong cheated his way to the top, while all of his fellow cyclists were doing the exact same thing is silly.


People (seemingly) want to believe that heroes are just regular guys. This is what gives the average Joe hope that he too will achieve greatness with nothing more than hard work and the will to win.

I am surprised anyone would be surprised by the story/findings.

Garage Rat
06-28-2014, 10:33 AM
Average people won't and will never understand what it takes to get to elite levels in most any sport.
Lance was a great cyclist that eventually got caught breaking the rules of his sport and is paying for it.
Thats the chance you take and I'm sure that his competition at the time were keeping up with the latest trends in pharmaceuticals.
Winning six tours isn't just the drugs.

StressMonkey
06-28-2014, 11:04 AM
Lance was unquestionably a gifted athlete, but it makes me very uncomfortable reading about the viciousness he had with going after people who could expose the lie he was perpetuating. I don't feel any sympathy for the predicament he's in now.

paolo59
06-28-2014, 11:13 AM
Lance was unquestionably a gifted athlete, but it makes me very uncomfortable reading about the viciousness he had with going after people who could expose the lie he was perpetuating. I don't feel any sympathy for the predicament he's in now.

The drug use was 'par for the course' I guess. But I agree on the viciousness. He was brutal. Pretty much ruined some folk if I remember correctly.

ChazWood
06-28-2014, 12:37 PM
Lance was unquestionably a gifted athlete, but it makes me very uncomfortable reading about the viciousness he had with going after people who could expose the lie he was perpetuating. I don't feel any sympathy for the predicament he's in now.
That's my primary takeaway from the piece - insight into the relentless and often ruthless efforts used to construct and maintain his iconic brand. Although the Livestrong endeavor is great and has no doubt helped many, I find myself wondering about the true motivation for creating the foundation.

The other takeaway is further example of how corporate sponsorship plays such a key and broadly influential role in athletics. They're so quick to align themselves with athletic "heroes" to hock their wares - and equally quick to sever ties at the first instance of impropriety. I guess it's all in the game.

djflex
06-28-2014, 01:00 PM
That's my primary takeaway from the piece - insight into the relentless and often ruthless efforts used to construct and maintain his iconic brand. Although the Livestrong endeavor is great and has no doubt helped many, I find myself wondering about the true motivation for creating the foundation.

The other takeaway is further example of how corporate sponsorship plays such a key and broadly influential role in athletics. They're so quick to align themselves with athletic "heroes" to hock their wares - and equally quick to sever ties at the first instance of impropriety. I guess it's all in the game.

Imo, the foundation was an earnest effort with little hidden motivation. Again thats just my thoughts . Many of the most ruthless and coldhearted figures throughout sports and business actually do legimitate work in these areas. Perhaps it helps them justify other actions, i dunno.

The stigma around PEDS in sports is stupid. Its created by people who literally may know nothing about sports at all, other tan from a journalistic viewpoint. These same people, the media, have done far more to ruin our soceity than a guy on a bike who took steroids.

FFS, the media controls everything. The hidden agenda and power of the media terrifies me.

Brackneyc
06-28-2014, 01:39 PM
Lance was unquestionably a gifted athlete, but it makes me very uncomfortable reading about the viciousness he had with going after people who could expose the lie he was perpetuating. I don't feel any sympathy for the predicament he's in now.


Fight or flight in effect.

Corbi
06-28-2014, 03:07 PM
I think it is kind of ridiculous how hard everyone is coming down on the guy. I would be surprised if ANY of the top finishers are clean. To say that Lance Armstrong cheated his way to the top, while all of his fellow cyclists were doing the exact same thing is silly.

This^, all the top riders were using so in essence it was a level playing field. I fail to see the big deal and think Lance should have told them all to kiss his ass and never admit anything.

mikieson
06-28-2014, 04:11 PM
I have nothing but respect for the guy. They all dope..in every sport..I hate finger pointing preachy f@%!tards!..

crupiea
06-28-2014, 04:21 PM
When I was racing amateur (bicycles) in Europe in the '90's, drugs were rampant...and the big one was EPO, along with amphetamines. Each rider on the team would show up to our meeting points,
usually with their parents or girlfriend in order for us to all travel together in the team cars and vans. Every one of us would have a tacklebox, which contained vitamins, ointments, bandages
and a plethora of other items a rider would use for recuperation. It became a joke, as to who had the larger tacklebox. As a new rider on the team, I had a shaving kit bag in my duffel, and guys
teased me in fun, when I asked them what was in the tackle box...."Vie" they would reply (French word for "Life"). I wondered what was in these boxes...and as we all shared rooms on the road,
I sure did learn. "This is hexaquine, and you take that when you begin getting cramps, and it goes away...these special syringes are short, so they fit in your jersey pocket easier and you can
charge up during the race...these ones are powerful painkillers...this is cortisone"...on and on it went.

This is where drug use begins, and all of the teams are usually run by a "Directeur Sportif", or manager, who was usually a retired pro rider, not usually upper echelon, but a good pro from his day.
There is a wealth of knowledge passed on to the riders, and let me tell you, there is nobody clean in todays pro ranks. I don't care what efforts are made to clean up cycling and other high level sport,
drug use is rampant and it always will be. When the world made a fuss about Lance and the EPO, I just laughed...ok, I thought, the world is now just catching on!

When I lived in Belgium, I often trained with a retired Pro who was managing an American team in the 90's....I asked him once, what's the greatest advancement in cycling history, expecting to hear
about equipment....he said "EPO". LOL That always struck me...how quickly and off the cuff he said that.

I am split on the whole Lance deal personally...after all, Pro cycling is not sport...it's a moving advertisement, it's a multi million dollar Machine...your average team in the Tour has a budget in excess of
$15 to 20 Million. We buy the bikes the riders ride, we drink the supplements they advertise on their jerseys, etc. It's no different than Pro Football, or Wrestling.

Keep this in mind...Lance raised millions of dollars with his foundation for Cancer Research, and you can bet that there are many cancer survivors who clung to his accolades for motivation to beat
their illness and survived.

I think, that if anyone in life deserves a "pass", maybe it's Lance.

Just my opinion.

Lived the life.

this man deserves reps.

I recall when this topic first came out a while back. 99.9% of the people here said they would not even lie for 10's of millions of dollars. i of course said i would not only lie but would do much worse then that for that money.

i was excoriated for that comment even though every one of you hypocrites knows you would do the same thing and probably worse.

of course the same thing happened when i said that tiger woods was probably juicing. same denyers, same denials.

just face it. keith hernandez isnt the only guy to do it. nor is clemons or bonds.

Look at football. they get a pass because they do what the politicians tell them to do. the advertise whatever agenda is the topic of the day and in trade. no one looks at their bad behavior.

lets just admit whats going on, accept it and enjoy the truth.

the tour is starting next weekend and Contedor is going to win it and we all know it.

CropDusterMan
06-28-2014, 10:28 PM
I hope Contador doesn't...never been a fan...I have to be honest, I really fell out of love with cycling for quite a while after I retired.
I got my son into racing for a few years and that really made me realize how much I'd missed it.
I worked as a journalist for a few years covering cycling , right around the time Lance made his comeback at the 1999 Paris-Nice race. I
honestly can't slag the guy, he was never disrespectful to me in the few times I met him...but I know he was fierce to those who opposed
him. I always remember the quote of Tour de France great, Jaques Anquetil..."You can't win the Tour on mineral water alone".

Halfway
06-28-2014, 10:38 PM
People (seemingly) want to believe that heroes are just regular guys. This is what gives the average Joe hope that he too will achieve greatness with nothing more than hard work and the will to win.

I am surprised anyone would be surprised by the story/findings.

I actually think many people want to see the Lances of the world tainted so they can pass judgment from their barstools and couches, and think 'if I took those magic beans I could have done that too, nothing special about that guy'

Lance was a sociopathic prick but to be fair he did what he had to do to maintain the insane façade of denial the world seems to have about PED since the government decided to get involved with men kicking balls, riding bikes and hitting smaller balls with sticks

paolo59
06-28-2014, 10:57 PM
I actually think many people want to see the Lances of the world tainted so they can pass judgment from their barstools and couches, and think 'if I took those magic beans I could have done that too, nothing special about that guy'

Lance was a sociopathic prick but to be fair he did what he had to do to maintain the insane façade of denial the world seems to have about PED since the government decided to get involved with men kicking balls, riding bikes and hitting smaller balls with sticks

LOL I think you're right. There is nothing like 'stomping' on one who has fallen from 'so high,' no? I think Lance just might have had some 'personality issues' as you alluded. LMAO Just who hasn't had some of those? :) What he did, or might have done, vis a vis those who pointed out his 'leg up' on the competition is indeed a little troubling. But then again, those who 'pointed' juiced just the same as he! Just why didn't they win the Tour de France?

GuyJin
06-28-2014, 11:12 PM
I'm just going to give my two yen about Lance Armstrong and the power of denial, which ain't a river in Egypt.

The Lie

Armstrong lied, plain and simple. Apparently, so did (and do) the other cyclists, baseball players, football players, Olympic athletes, and gym rats who are taking sh!t and getting away with it. This doesn't make Armstrong better or worse. It just makes him the person who got caught. I'm sure that in the days and weeks and months to come, we'll have someone else tagged for showing positive and once again we'll get out our metaphorical swords and daggers to skewer the poor sucker. Just the way it goes and how people are.

The question of "why lie" inevitably comes down to money. It's big cash out there, let's not BS about it. If not in salaries then in endorsements. But the money is there for those who win and again, let's face it, who remembers which rider came in second?

Ultimately, Armstrong chose to lie. He made the decision and he'll have to live with it. I don't know what he's like as a person. I never met him, only read he could be this or that. I applaud him for kicking cancer's butt as I'd applaud anyone for doing the same thing. Liking or disliking him doesn't factor into this. For others, if he were a really nice guy, then maybe the lying would be forgiven to a certain extent. IDK. But as Leo Durocher once said, "Nice guys finish last." You don't get to the top without stepping on a few toes.

The Media

Well, they have to write about something. That's their job, like it or not. To say they control everything is pushing it, but they do have the power in some cases to sway public opinion. Nothing new here. And yes, some journalists know less than nothing about professional sports and display an appalling ignorance of how things work. OTOH, I've seen some ex-jocks turned sportscasters who were absolute disasters and disgraces to the journalistic side of things, so it works both ways.

Drugs in sports

Like it or not, that sh!t is here to stay. The steroid genie is out and he ain't gettin' back into his bottle. But ask yourselves this: Do we really want to watch a sport knowing full well that the athletes we so admire are using something to help them gain an edge on everyone else? It's true, a boatload of guys ARE cheating...but what about the ones who aren't? This is where I have the problem of a level playing field. If everyone were on the sauce, okay. But everyone isn't. And that's where the debate begins.

I don't really have an answer to this. JMO...

Cass40
06-28-2014, 11:21 PM
Well it's not right to cheat and lie just because everybody else is doing it.

That would be weird logic.

Why don't they just legalize it then? If everybody's doing it and everybody knows that, but you're supposed to pretend you're not doing it, cause if you get caught your life will be over.

Does it mean that non liars can never become the greatest athletes? Great.

Brackneyc
06-29-2014, 05:45 AM
I actually think many people want to see the Lances of the world tainted so they can pass judgment from their barstools and couches, and think 'if I took those magic beans I could have done that too, nothing special about that guy'

Lance was a sociopathic prick but to be fair he did what he had to do to maintain the insane façade of denial the world seems to have about PED since the government decided to get involved with men kicking balls, riding bikes and hitting smaller balls with sticks

I agree with this too. There are folks who feel better about themselves when others fail.

KeepItMoving
06-29-2014, 06:18 AM
If I was a World Class competitor in any significant sport. I had millions of dollars in sponsorships and income riding on my success. I was eating as best I could, training as best I could, and living a life consistent with being a champion. I was considered one of the best in the World, and my competitors were all doping their blood. Well, I can tell you I'd be faced with 2 options: Never achieve the pinnacle that I was so close to, or do what it took to beat my competition.

I just can't pass judgment on Lance Armstrong. I don't know or care about him, and none of my money has gone into his pocket. On this issue, however, I can't judge him harshly. All of our "heroes" are mere humans.

Nikonguy
06-29-2014, 06:20 AM
As the article pointed out, blood doping was already rampant before Armstrong began competing. Anyone would be a fool to attempt to compete in that atmosphere but Lance's ego led him to being the poster boy for the sport and there was never a question about the media going after him eventually.





(I just think heaven that professional bodybuilding has this whole PED thing under control.)

beachguy498
06-30-2014, 11:38 AM
.... Being serious though...I think that as a culture, we're often fascinated with celebs, famous folks when they 'fall from grace.' I've always been pretty neutral on Lance Armstrong, but he's no doubt accomplished a lot and has done a lot in terms of helping the fight against cancer. When he hit bottom, I didn't gloat. It just shows, he's human like the rest of us. :o

I really have no opinion on Lance myself. I really think all the good that he has done outshadows the bad about him.

But as a society, we love to see someone fall flat on their face. Look at all those "reality" shows on TV, someone has got to go at some point. I call them "exclusionary shows". That's where it all started, now it has spilled over into every facet of life, politics, sports, etc. Now throw in ppl that shoot themselves in the foot in a matter of seconds with things like FB, twitter, you-tube. Hero to zero in 60 seconds.

virtualbrian
06-30-2014, 12:25 PM
Read Tyler Hamilton's book "The Secret Race" if you really want to see what kind of prick/bully/life destroying ******* Lance Armstrong really was/is.

Also, just because everyone was doing it doesn't mean it was a level playing field. Lance and crew had access to the people who invented the technology. Everyone else had access to the Walmart version.

beachguy498
06-30-2014, 12:51 PM
Read Tyler Hamilton's book "The Secret Race" if you really want to see what kind of prick/bully/life destroying ******* Lance Armstrong really was/is.

Also, just because everyone was doing it doesn't mean it was a level playing field. Lance and crew had access to the people who invented the technology. Everyone else had access to the Walmart version.

I had read up blood doping a while ago when it first came out that Lance may be doing that. Pretty intense stuff for just a bike race... but it was never like he won by 10 feet or something, he decimated the rest of the field for years and totally dominated the sport. He should have thrown a race here and there to make it look good.

ridefattires
06-30-2014, 11:13 PM
Lance was hands down a truly great cyclist. He didn't do anything that the rest of the field wasn't. Not the contenders anyway. Couldn't care less if he road with a needle hanging out of his leg. That's his choice and the choice of the other riders. I wasn't in the race and I knew he was doping. The governing body new he was doping. They had their own agenda and used lance to get it done. The same way he used the sport and the tour to fulfil his agenda.

The tour is more than just a single race. It's not a single day event. How many humans can ride at that level for that long naturally? Can't say I've met one. He was a brilliant tactition on the course and throughout the event. The tour is not about one person. One person cannot win that event.

I loved to watch lance ride. Couldn't care less how he got there. I'd still watch him ride today. He' d just be a little slower. The tactics and strategy were what made him appealing. You could just see the wheels turning in his head.

I'm sure lance has continued to make plenty of money since his cycling career. It's just a business. And business was good. It's not like he wrote a billion dollars worth of junk loans and then insured them causing economic collapse .
Now that would be a terrible thing to do.

The rise of lance yes... The fall...didn't see him laying in the gutter, guess not.

GuyJin
07-01-2014, 12:14 AM
I really have no opinion on Lance myself. I really think all the good that he has done outshadows the bad about him.

But as a society, we love to see someone fall flat on their face. Look at all those "reality" shows on TV, someone has got to go at some point. I call them "exclusionary shows". That's where it all started, now it has spilled over into every facet of life, politics, sports, etc. Now throw in ppl that shoot themselves in the foot in a matter of seconds with things like FB, twitter, you-tube. Hero to zero in 60 seconds.

---

Yeah, I see your point, but the exclusionary nature of life didn't start with those reality shows. It started when we were younger. Think back to when you played ball as a kid. If you got the winning hit, sunk the basket, kicked the field goal or scored the TD, you were the hero for that day. If you didn't do it the next day, your teammates got angry. No, they didn't go on TV and crap on you, but all the same they made their disappointment known. Siding with the winner and castigating the loser ain't new. It's more a matter of degree than anything else and it's instant due to the social media platforms we use these days.

TV's made it worse, but again, no one's forcing you or anyone else to watch those shows or dream up those shows (which I can't be bothered to watch). The public likes it. It's like during the French Revolution, the common people loved to go watch the guillotine do its work. In the Old West, you had picnics at hangings. Who cared if the people the authorities iced were guilty or not? (Most of 'em probably were, but during the Revolution, the nobles got killed because they were rich, not necessarily bad).

What I find disconcerting is how far society seems to go to excuse what people do. Sure, Lance was cheating in the same way the other Europeans were cheating. But were all of them doing EPO or just most? This echoes what I said before. If everyone was doing it, maybe it can be understood, but not everyone was or is. And what does it say for us as a society when we known damn well the people we watch are doped up, drugged to the gills, gaming the system...does it make us part of the problem? Or are we able to divorce ourselves from that aspect and use an excuse of "I'm not competing, so it's kosher."

This is what I have a huge problem with. Unfortunately, I don't have the answers.

Dr0Scott
07-01-2014, 12:44 AM
If I was a World Class competitor in any significant sport. I had millions of dollars in sponsorships and income riding on my success. I was eating as best I could, training as best I could, and living a life consistent with being a champion. I was considered one of the best in the World, and my competitors were all doping their blood. Well, I can tell you I'd be faced with 2 options: Never achieve the pinnacle that I was so close to, or do what it took to beat my competition.

I just can't pass judgment on Lance Armstrong. I don't know or care about him, and none of my money has gone into his pocket. On this issue, however, I can't judge him harshly. All of our "heroes" are mere humans.

Very well, and concisely put.

This is a challenge facing most young sportsmen (and even sportswomen) - it is epidemic in cycling, and pandemic in sports in general!

I watched the lead up to London 2012 - the TV coverage had a hopeful sprinter, who was not quite making the times - his coach says to him something like "you need to think about what you need to do to meet the times" The kid looked natural surrounded by more muscular peers.

It must be truly awful being faced with the reality that unless you are prepared to do whatever it takes you may never reach your true place in the sport you love. I see young guys turning up in the gym who compete, or play in local sport leagues, and use anything and everything they can get their hands on - it's a crazy world where every sport lies to the public and takes the golden coins

As for Lance - don't know him. But he achieved, and imho it was by using the same twisted rules and logic every other top rider was applying at the time. Yes, he lied - but they all lied, and they all protected the empire and the system that they were all competing in, until they were faced with two alternatives - testify and receive a minor penalty, or face the full force of WADA - Lance wasn't given the same alternatives, why? I feel that they appeared to single him out, so WADA could be seen as strong and cycling be seen to make a public statement about cleaning up their sport - again!

Caffeine was on the banned list until 2004 - some beta2 agonists are allowed, others are not. There is still a lot of confusion over what enhances performance, and whether or not is should be allowed because of that enhancement. Everyone is looking for an edge, if a new supplement came out that increased muscle, or reduced fat, or upped performance (provided it was tested and considered safe for consumption), a lot of us would try it - a number of these from past years have ended up eventually being banned - look at the furor over MHA.

Flounderbout
07-01-2014, 01:53 AM
This article was in the Times a while back before the Olympics (I can't link it, because it is behind a firewall so I have just copied it). For me it exemplifies the difference shown up by this thread - there are essentially two breeds of people. One breed is prepared to be dishonest if they think that something justifies it. The other breed isn't prepared to be no matter what, because they want to sleep at night. I'm in that camp personally.



We hear rather a lot from sportspeople who have been caught taking drugs. David Millar and Dwain Chambers are just two of the athletes who have described, often in elaborate detail, the temptations they faced and the pressures that corrupted them. Their press conferences are likely to be among the most widely attended of the Olympic Games.

These confessions are doubtless sincere and, in their way, illuminating. Ben Johnson and Tim Montgomery have also helped us to understand the deeper, cultural reasons for widespread cheating in sport. Many have written memoirs, too. Millar’s Racing Through The Dark has been described as “brave” and “searingly honest”. Certainly it has helped to rehabilitate the cyclist in the eyes of the British public.

But the exposure granted to drugs cheats, even those who genuinely want to make amends, carries a particular danger. All too often it obscures another group of sportspeople whose achievements are considerably less high-profile, but infinitely more heroic. These are the athletes who faced the same temptations, inhabited the same cultures and were offered the same inducements — but chose to stay clean.

For all the eloquence of the dopers and the narrative power of their confessionals, this is the one aspect of cheating that is often overlooked. While these assorted memoirs help us to understand why so many succumb to the menace of drugs, they shed no light on the parallel and, in many ways, more revelatory story: why so many others do not. These are the people who stayed true to their sport and their consciences. Perhaps they are the most inspirational sportspeople of all.

Kirsty Wade is 49 and lives on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides with her husband, Tony, their three children and two dogs. The views of the Atlantic Ocean from their bedroom window are spectacular in the morning light, the sun sparkling off the water and the green pastures on the other side of the cove framed by distant hills.

The home doubles as a bed and breakfast, and each morning Wade collects fresh eggs from the hens in the croft outside the house. She then chats with her guests before leaving for work as a school assistant. “We really enjoy having people to stay,” Wade says. “It is very informal, but it is also very sociable.”

What few of the guests realise is that the woman who cooked them breakfast is one of the greatest British athletes of all time.

Wade’s career was extraordinary. She is ranked second in the UK allcomers’ list over 800 metres, behind Jarmila Kratochvilova, the world record-holder from the former Czechoslovakia. Not even Kelly Holmes ran as fast in the UK.

Wade won three gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and holds the Welsh record for every distance from 800 metres to 2,000 metres. Her time of 1min 57.42sec is the second fastest 800 metres recorded by a British woman — but Wade never won an Olympic gold. She never came close.

Millar has written about the pervasiveness of doping in road cycling, but this is as nothing compared with the drug-fuelled spectacle of female athletics in the 1980s. Anabolic steroids did not merely transform the speed of many Eastern Europeans, they also altered their facial and physical characteristics. Many of their world records remain unchallenged to this day.

“Most of us knew that drug-taking was widespread,” Wade says. “Tatyana Dorovskikh, who won the 3,000 metres at the Olympics in Seoul, was caught for doping, and so were a few others. There were suspicions about the Eastern European athletes in particular because of their incredible times and the way many of them looked. It was an open secret, really.”

But was Wade tempted to cross the doping Rubicon? Did she ever feel the lure of what Millar has called the “magnetism of drugs?”

“It never crossed my mind,” she says with a smile. “It really didn’t. To be honest, it was not even a temptation because it would have gone against everything in my character. I wanted to compete fairly and with a clean conscience. Chocolate biscuits are a temptation for me, not anabolic steroids.”

Wade was not lacking in ambition; quite the reverse. After graduating from Loughborough University in English literature, she dropped out of a nursing course to focus on athletics full time. “I loved running and Tony [who at the time was her boyfriend and coach] thought that I should go all out to fulfil my potential,” she said. “We went to Florida to do warm-weather training and paid our way with the little savings we had. My home town in Wales did fundraising events to help out, too, which was very moving.

“When we moved to Whitley Bay, in the North East, we lived in a bedsit and Tony took on three jobs to make ends meet. There was no lottery funding back then, so we had to rely on small grants and our own earnings. Things were very tough, but I trained with all my heart.”

But even as Wade pushed herself to her limits, she knew that her dreams of Olympic glory were doomed. “We were not naive,” Tony says. “From the excessive facial hair of her rivals, there was plenty of evidence that things were not as they should have been. But we made the decision to try and achieve what we could irrespective of what other people were doing with drugs.

“We certainly don’t think that our ambitions came to nothing. I still feel pride that we took on these people, training on Boxing Day on the sand dunes at Tynemouth in a howling gale. And all these years later, Kirsty’s performances still stand scrutiny.”

The decency and work ethic of Wade and her family can be gleaned from the reviews of the many guests who have stayed at their B&B.

“We really couldn’t have asked for any more,” one said. “The bedroom was absolutely stunning, but best of all were Kirsty, Tony and their children,” said another. On TripAdvisor, the travel website, every single one of the 37 reviews is five-star. “It is a pleasure having people to stay,” Wade says. “It doesn’t feel like work.”

Wade is not invited to the VIP functions and gala dinners often reserved for former Olympic champions. She is not fêted or revered. But there is not a shred of resentment or bitterness in this rather remarkable woman. Perhaps this is because she has possession of something that is — dare we say it — more precious than an Olympic gold medal: the quiet knowledge that she did the right thing.

“I am not sure I would have enjoyed the limelight,” she says with a giggle. “I am a quiet person, really. But I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I had cheated. Winning is important, but there are some things in life that are infinitely more valuable.”

Case study: Christina Boxer

Christina Boxer finished fourth in the 1,500 metres at the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988. She was beaten by three athletes from Eastern Europe, including Tatyana Dorovskikh, of the former Soviet Union, who was later banned for taking drugs.

“Ron Stonehouse, my coach, was a wonderful man,” Boxer says. “His motivation was to see me happy and healthy and to do the best I could. He was more concerned about me as a person than as a vehicle for his own ambitions. Winning was important, but values were even more so.

“I always had the dream of standing on the Olympic rostrum. It was hugely disappointing to get so close and then find out that I was deprived by a competitor who had cheated. It is not the medal I miss, but the experience of standing up there with the stadium cheering.

“The tragedy of drug-taking is that it is a double whammy. The cheats are not only ripping off clean rivals, they are also sucking credibility from the sport. That is why I am frustrated when cheats are reinstated. It seems unfair that they initially try to get away with it, and then, when they are caught, get paid huge amounts to sell their stories.

“If your whole self-esteem is bound up with winning, perhaps drugs are a temptation. But if you gain your self-esteem from the person you are, they are not a temptation in any way. Maybe that is the most important lesson of all.”

Case study: Christine Benning

Christine Benning was another member of the golden generation of British middle-distance runners. She came fifth in the 1,500 metres at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, behind two runners from the Eastern Bloc. “People used to gasp when [Jarmila] Kratochvilova walked on the track because she was so masculine in build,” she says.

In 1979, four Eastern European athletes were banned. They were frequently clocking times under four minutes for 1,500 metres. But they were reinstated a short time later.

“I made a stand in 1980. I was on Sportsnight with David Coleman and argued that the prevalence of drugs made athletics incredibly unfair. I didn’t want to labour the point because I didn’t want to come across as a bad loser. I just wanted to put it out there.

“Athletics was an important part of my life and I was very ambitious. But I never considered taking drugs. I knew they existed, but I could never have cheated in that way. It would have been dishonest.

“Since retiring I have had two children and now work as a coach support officer for England Athletics. My daughters are very proud of what I achieved. I hope it doesn’t sound immodest, but I am very proud, too.”

Case study: Kathy Cook

Kathy Cook (formerly Smallwood) is still the British record-holder at both 200 metres and the 400 metres. The records have stood for almost 30 years. She is married to Garry Cook, who competed for Great Britain in the 400 metres and 800 metres.

“Just this summer we went to look through our old running tapes,” Kathy says. “Garry’s father recorded all our races and we wanted to put them on to disk. It was funny to watch them again, and it was the first time our three children (ages 24, 22 and 19) had seen most of them. They were impressed and proud. It was quite moving. They were also a little incredulous. I think they found it hard to imagine that mum and dad used to be international athletes. To be honest, I sometimes find that difficult to believe as well.

“Garry and I have had very happy lives since retiring. I am a PE teacher at a local primary school in Walsall and Garry is the deputy head, so we get to see each other a lot at home and at work.

“I suspected that a lot of my competitors in athletics were doping. Many of the Eastern Europeans didn’t have much of a choice, to be honest. In many ways, I feel a great deal of sympathy for them.

“I never contemplated taking drugs. It would have eaten me up inside. I certainly couldn’t have sat and watched those races with my children knowing that it had been done the wrong way.”

Dr0Scott
07-01-2014, 02:14 AM
Flounderbout - an interesting read, thanks for posting it up.

I am fortunate that I've never had that dilemma - I haven't been forced to consider giving up something that I was so passionate about that it consumed my life. Thankfully not many of us are faced with those choices. It must take a lot of courage and conviction for those who have felt forced to walk away, and as I posted above "It must be truly awful being faced with the reality that unless you are prepared to do whatever it takes you may never reach your true place in the sport you love."

I think we would all prefer our televised (or even non-televised) sports to be a level playing field for all competitors - how that is accomplished is the difficult part. Zero tolerance appear to be the stated policy, but its being flouted at present and we either need to get better at detection and deterrent measures, or change some of the rules.

I think we'd all prefer increase safety/clarity and more transparency in sports - maybe the future generations will see it happen. The public voice of the individual sports and WADA appear to moving closer to it.

&... I think we are all agreed, cheating is wrong. But... they have been getting away with it, and more importantly publicly being rewarded for it, for so long it is now a much bigger conundrum for all the interested parties to workout. I sincerely hope they do.