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Dispatches

It's Not About Lance Armstrong

Though I told myself I wouldn't do it, I watched the Lance Armstrong interview last night. It was like a bad pile-up on the highway or billows of black smoke from a distant fire—you know you shouldn't look, but it's tough not to get sucked in. I had a two-hour workout to do, and I figured the footage of the final unraveling of one of the greatest American sports heroes couldn't be any worse than my normal shoot-em-up trainer fare. I was wrong.

The longer I watched, the madder I got, and my tempo intervals crept from low-L4 to mid-L5. Unlike many Armstrong supporters, I wasn't angry at the confession: Having worked in the cycling industry for a long time, I accepted a decade ago that he was doped. What made me irate was Armstrong's lack of forthcoming. He wouldn't implicate anyone else or talk about the methods he used or how the system worked. He continued to deny doping during his 2009 comeback—in spite of overwhelming evidence from the UCI biological passport to the contrary. Rather than acknowledge Betsy Andreu and her report that he admitted to doping in a hospital room back in 1996, he simply begged off. ("I'm not taking that one on," he copped out.)

In short, Armstrong told the world nothing that we didn't already know. He used cortisone, EPO, Human Growth Hormone, testosterone, and blood doping—wow, really? Meanwhile he wants redemption and hopefully the overturning of his lifetime ban. The interview wasn't candor but yet another calculated Armstrong move, and as far as I'm concerned reconciliation shouldn't come without complete truth.

Of course those decisions aren't my burden. Like most of us, the only thing I have to worry about is my reactions, and as I thought about the interview after it was finished last night I tried to put my finger on my anger. I realize that I'm angry that this guy, who has been suckering the world for at least 15 years, is given the chance to cheat us of a few hours more. I'm angry that I got sucked in last night—true justice would be to deny Armstrong of any further platform. And I'm mostly pissed that this whole stupid doping mess is tarnishing—in my mind and in the eyes of the world—cycling, which has been one of the greatest challenges and joys of my life.

As I ruminated on it all, I remembered a cycling video, Life Cycles, that I watched again in Tucson last week during the Outside bike tests. It's a stunning, beautiful visual celebration of the bike and the biking world, with huge landscapes, breathtaking riding, and footage that made all of us watching want to get up and ride. I watched it again last night, and my anger from the Armstrong mess faded away. It was a refreshing reminder that cycling isn't Lance Armstrong—cycling is the burn in the lungs, the arc of a perfect turn, the quiet of a lost paved road, and the camraderie of good friends.

So tonight, rather than waste another two hours, I'm tuning out, leaving Lance to his mess, taking a ride, and meditating on all the good in cycling. Maybe you should, too.

—Aaron Gulley



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