I came across this book while browsing through an online bookstore. I never really followed the story of Lance Armstrong as it all was happening, so it piqued my interest. But like a juicy, scandalous novel, I couldn’t put it down…
This book has nothing to do with running, right?….RIGHT?!?! I had no idea how involved the sport of cycling as a whole was in substance abuse. Reading this book really opened my eyes to professional sports and drug use – especially endurance sports. How many professionals dope or use some other form of illegal performance enhancements? Lance and his team had such a smooth system, how do we really know the current drug testing really works. What about political gains? We may be better at testing these days, but we also have to assume drug users are also getting better at hiding the truth.
The author, Juliet Macur, did a wonderful job telling the story from an objective standpoint with a variety of sources. Honestly, after reading the entire story, I feel bad for Lance. He had a rough start at life, and didn’t have the best of influencers. He had a disrespectful attitude toward other people even before he really started competing. But none of that mattered after we figured out that he was good, fast, strong – the best in the U.S. He was a poor sport, but that didn’t discourage his fans or sponsors.
Lance wanted to win because he loved fame and he loved money. We wanted him to win because he was American, then we wanted him to keep winning because he overcame cancer. We wanted a representative. But in order to compete and win at a world class level it was obvious he had to use drugs. I’m not saying he was forced to pull the trigger, but did we load the gun? Did we give him too much glory he couldn’t let go of? We put him on a pedestal that made it impossible to be honest and come out unscathed. He was not alone in all this, and yet we let the sport use him as a scapegoat – probably because we felt fooled, angry, and hurt that he lied to us so much and he wasn’t a very nice person. But that doesn’t mean everyone else, his teammates and sponsors (especially you know who), should have gotten off so easily.
What Lance did was wrong, and I would never condone illegal substance use, but I think it is worth noting that we are all fallible. Lance claimed if anyone else was in his situation, they would have cheated, too. I don’t think that’s true, but it’s a fair statement. We can’t really know what we would do when faced with that kind of pressure and temptation. But a big part of Lance’s downfall was his lack of hope. He felt it was hopeless to try to train and compete clean. Though I am more wary now of how clean professional runners really are, I have hope that illegal drug use is fading. Maybe I’m a fool for thinking so. But if I get to a place where I have to choose between winning and racing clean, I pray I choose the latter.
My husband once asked me if, “If you could take a pill (legal) that would guarantee you’d win the Olympics, but die at the age of 60, would you take it?” “Of course not,” I immediately answered. “That’s like…that’s like taking away my cake!” My years of training, sweating, struggling, growing, failing, and learning are my “cake” (chocolate). Racing is my buttercream frosting. Winning, and running fast…that’s just my rainbow candy sprinkles. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE rainbow candy sprinkles, but they don’t taste so great by themselves. I think what I hate most about substance abuse is that it steals away the hard work, dedication, and natural talent that athletes have, and you end up competing against lab science and wealth.
I didn’t mean for this blurb to be discouraging. I apologize if it came across that way. It’s healthy to question, but dangerous to doubt. There will always be cheaters in the world, but they don’t have to outnumber those that play fair. On a side note, the book really is interesting – a good read for a plane travel or a taper period. I’m sure you can find it on Amazon, but I got mine from bookoutlet.com for pretty cheap. Anyway, moral of the story, don’t let cheating and/or cheaters bring you down. Running fast doesn’t have to mean running dirty.