Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Armstrong Lie

Year 7, Day 228 - 8/16/15 - Movie #2,122

BEFORE: I knew the moon landing was faked, I just knew it!  I'm sure that interviews with Neil Armstrong will set things right, once and for all.  Wait, this is about cycling?  Ah, it's a different Armstrong.  This guy should fit right in with this week's documentary Parade of Wankers - plus I have to admit that this is a topic I would like to know more about, even though it's a sport I don't follow.

THE PLOT: A documentary chronicling sports legend Lance Armstrong's improbable rise and ultimate fall from grace.

AFTER: Director Alex Gibney set out to make a film about Lance Armstrong's 2009 return to the Tour de France, after retiring four years earlier.  It was supposed to be called "The Road Back", but before the film could be completed, Armstrong had sat down with Oprah Winfrey for an interview in 2013, where he admitted on camera that he'd taken performance-enhancing drugs, and had been lying about this for years.  

No one felt more betrayed than Gibney, who had to change course and re-cut the film to mix the 2009 footage of Armstrong's training, and his thoughts on returning to the sport, with new interviews with his ex-teammates and colleagues, who were wondering what took so long for the truth to be revealed.  Even after admitting the use of steroids and other substances for years, Armstrong still claimed he ran a clean race in 2009 - despite being older and navigating some of France's hills better than he ever had.  Right.  Maybe he used so many substances in the past that his body was still filled with them.  

No one came under closer scrutiny, because of past allegations - so the true irony is that if Lance hadn't tried for a comeback, his past misdeeds might never have been revealed.  So it was pure ego, pure hubris, a desire to once again dominate the sport he'd walked away from that proved to be his downfall.

Honestly, I wasn't that surprised when the news broke in 2013 - we seem to live in an age of "win, at any cost".  Our culture has produced Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, a host of other MLB drug-users, and most recently, Tom Brady.  And while sports used to be a culture of "Train harder, play faster, win bigger", when an athlete gets caught in a scandal, this rapidly turns to "Lie harder, lie faster, lie bigger."   Armstrong was probably the best at lying, because he had the power and the money to silence just about anyone who hinted that his victories weren't clean.     

All things being equal, there was always something hinky about him winning 7 Tours in a row - sure, you could make a case that somehow, perhaps one guy had a natural ability, some technique that no one else could employ, a body with an unusual ability to not get tired or something, but it was like a magic trick.  Part of you wants to believe that a magician can levitate a girl, or make himself disappear, but deep down in your heart, you know he's probably using a mechanical platform or a trap door.  

And even after coming clean about not being clean, the public still got a bunch of excuses from Armstrong.  "Well, everyone was doing it!"  Nope, that doesn't make it right.  "Everyone got shorter penalties for testifying against me, so I was targeted."  Nope, that's not a valid excuse either.  Of course they're going to go after the guy who won the most, who got the most money in endorsements, who got the biggest bonuses from the sponsors.  "Come on, guys, let's not make a federal case out of this!"  Umm, since your team sponsor was the U.S. Postal Service, that's exactly what they had the right to do.

I've still got a lot of questions about the Tour de France - like if it's a team sport, how does one guy win?  But at least I understand the basics of this particular scandal now - and why there's no winner declared for the seven years where Armstrong had been declared the victor.  They can't just give the trophy to the guys who came in second, because they know they were probably doping too.  

And to think that he was venerated by so many people, so many cancer survivors and patients, and still he maintained his innocence with a web of lies.  This guy's in line for champion a-hole of the week, if you ask me.  

Starring Lance Armstrong, Frankie Andreu, George Hincapie, Johan Bruyneel.  

RATING: 5 out of 10 blood samples 

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