Guardian Interviews Armstrong

Discussion in 'Professional Cycling' started by limerickman, Nov 19, 2008.

  1. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    This was in yesterdays printed copy of the Guardian newspaper.


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2008/nov/18/cycling-lance-armstrong-drugs


    The sweat is still drying on Lance Armstrong's gaunt face when, with sunken eyes as blue as the cloudless sky, he sweeps through the front door of his home in the secluded hills of Austin, Texas. Armstrong offers a hand while balancing a pile of training gear on his arms. "Sorry, I'm late," he says. "It's been a busy day."

    He disappears as quickly as he arrived and I slide back on to the plush sofa of the vast room where I've been waiting. Huge paintings of minimalist pop art hang on the walls. Ed Ruscha's Speed Racer and Safe and Effective Medication echo the backdrop of cycling, cancer and doping allegations which have made Armstrong one of the world's most famous but controversial sportsmen.

    An elegant woman drifts past to check whether I need another sparkling water. The temptation is to mumble that a definitive dollop of truth would suffice for no other athlete divides the planet like Armstrong. He could be the greatest sportsman of all time, an epic and courageous figure who overcame cancer to win seven straight Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005. In the alternate view, however, he simply cheated his way to victory with performance-enhancing drugs.

    The ferocious split between believers and critics was illustrated when I canvassed the experts before arriving in Austin. I barely had to mention Armstrong's name to be assailed by a furious response from European journalists who had covered his exploits for years. "Horror-show" and "disgrace" were two of the milder terms of denigration. And yet, interviewing Bradley Wiggins in September, I was taken aback by the Olympic champion's delight just a few days after Armstrong announced his comeback. Wiggins, whose vehement stance against doping has long been enshrined, appeared an unlikely ally of Armstrong. So who do you believe? A maverick racer like Wiggins or a coterie of specialist reporters?

    "I don't care who you believe," Armstrong drawls. We sit at a big round table, in touching distance of his seven blue Tour titles on the bookshelf, while Armstrong hunches over a bowl of soup and a cup of green tea. "I understand people in France and in cycling might have that perception but the reality is that there's nothing there. The level of scrutiny I've had throughout my career from the press and the anti-doping authorities is unmatched. I'm not afraid of anything. I've got nothing to hide. There are seven cups in this room because of my hard work. This next year won't be any different - even if people hate to hear that. I'm going to be focusing on every aspect of the bike, the team, the strategy, the training, the hard work, the sacrifice. There are no secrets. To the critics I would say, believe it or not, there are exceptional athletes out there. Michael Phelps ... Paula Radcliffe ..."

    But neither Phelps nor Radcliffe has been engulfed by swaths of circumstantial evidence, or links to proven drug cheats. "There has been a fair amount of suspicion around me, and a hell of a lot of suspicion around cycling. If the guys who finished second, third and fourth behind Phelps were all busted then people would say, 'Hey, wait a minute. He beat 'em all - how the hell is that possible?'"

    Armstrong nods meaningfully, conceding why there are such doubts about him. The last time he stood on the podium in Paris, in 2005, he said he felt "sorry" for all the poor saps who doubted him and the integrity of the Tour. And yet the two men who shared his podium were both exposed as dopers. What did he think when Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich were busted?

    "Egg on my face," Armstrong says softly. "But look at the Brits on the track this year - absolutely outstanding. And still the head of French cycling said their performance 'is not possible'. Give me a break. Bradley Wiggins is the best fucking pursuiter of all time. I don't think he cheated. So if I could talk to your cycling buddies I would say, 'Just fucking relax. We're not talking about God. We're not talking about war. We're not talking about you losing every dime you had. We're talking about bike-racing'."

    Yet we are talking about doping. Three years ago L'Equipe published their claim that a sample of Armstrong's urine from the 1999 Tour had been retested and found to contain traces of EPO. They published their apparent exposé under a banner headline of "The Armstrong Lie". "I remember the call. This house was still under construction and I was in the backyard with the contractor. At the time I thought, 'OK, whatever' - even if it was a big 'whatever'. There was hysteria and they got this big independent commission to investigate.

    "Cycling, like the world, is very divided. One side finally said, 'OK, the independent commission cleared him so we're moving on'. The other side said, 'I don't believe the independent commission'. But the report was very clear and we were ready to go to the international tribunal with the lab, with Wada [the World Anti-Doping Agency] and the French government - and they declined. Now they come back and say 'OK, we'll now let you test those samples to prove your innocence'."

    Armstrong pushes his cup towards me. "Here's your sample," he says, "and the lid is now off it. Something might have been put in it and your life, your credibility depends on it, but now I put the lid back on. Now we come and test it. Nobody in their right mind would take that test. The commission cleared me and L'Equipe itself said, 'The athlete in question has no way to defend himself'. I'm all for drug controls but if the athlete cannot defend himself, what kind of kangaroo court is that?"

    Setting aside the possibility of tampered evidence Armstrong's first sample contained a residue of EPO - a fact he explains away by arguing that he used a cream for saddle sores during his first Tour win without any knowledge that it included a banned substance. Various other people also claim that he admitted to past doping.

    Is Emma O'Reilly, his former physiotherapist on the US Postal team, simply a liar - she claimed that Armstrong had asked her in 1998 to dispose of a bag of syringes containing EPO? "We all know the names. Emma O'Reilly, Steven Swart [his former team-mate who admitted using EPO], David Walsh [the respected Sunday Times journalist and author of LA Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong] and Prentice Steffen [an ex-professional cyclist who told L'Equipe that "the bad guys, like Armstrong, dope"]. We sued David Walsh in the high court and won. The prosecutor in Paris opened a federal investigation and we were completely cleared. We had another arbitration case in Texas and were vindicated again."

    Other people, apparently, also lied about Armstrong. Betsy Andreu, whose husband Frankie raced with Armstrong, claims she heard the cyclist tell doctors treating him for cancer that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs. "Her husband lived, trained and raced with me and he said, under oath, 'I have never seen Lance take performance-enhancing drugs'. But go online and, to this day, Betsy blogs 24 hours a day about me. If that ain't sick, what is?'"

    Armstrong's past links with Dr Michele Ferrari, the Italian physician charged with various doping offences, are more damaging. "Yeah - but more was made of that relationship than existed. And I'm not going to kick a family friend out of my life. There are those relationships but look at the real data. Nobody had more scrutiny than me."

    As part of his mission to prove himself clean on his return Armstrong will be tested daily by Don Catlin, an independent analyst, who will post his results online. But trouble continues to brew. "I don't want to enter an unsafe situation but you see this stuff coming out of France. There're some aggressive, angry emotions. If you believe what you read my personal safety could be in jeopardy. Cycling is a sport of the open road and spectators are lining that road. I try to believe that people, even if they don't like me, will let the race unfold."

    Does he fear being violently attacked on next year's Tour? "Yeah. There're directors of French teams that have encouraged people to take to the streets ... elbow to elbow. It's very emotional and tense."

    There is also something compulsive about Armstrong's comeback, which can be seen both in his craving to succeed and the fascination surrounding his tilt against the odds. Comparing his fitness at this stage of the season with past years he insists: "I'm much better physically now. And mentally there is no comparison. I'm far stronger and more motivated. The motivation of 2008 feels like the motivation of 1999. I was back from cancer then. I had the motivation of vengeance because nobody wanted me or believed in me."

    Nine years later Armstrong sounds more vulnerable than vengeful. "I have anxiety and insecurity about being 37. Let's not forget I'm the oldest tour winner in modern cycling history and that was four years ago. But that nervousness makes me work even harder. We're doing a training camp in December in Tenerife and another in California with big climbs. Normally I wouldn't smell a mountain until February so I'm starting early."

    Armstrong will begin the new year in Australia before he returns for the Tour of California and more racing in France and Switzerland, followed by his debut in the Giro d'Italia. "I regret not riding the Giro before. But their 100th anniversary and starting in Venice and finishing in Rome made it irresistible. That's the beauty of this comeback. You lay out different scenarios in your head. What if you won the Tour again? Or the Giro? Or if you won them both? Or you lost them both? You lay it all out and I'm still up for it."

    Armstrong suggests that running marathons led to him agreeing to get back on his bike in the 100-mile Leadville Trail in August, the day his comeback began. "Leadville climbs 12,500 feet and I felt good the first six hours. It was only in the last hour I ran out of fuel because I hadn't done enough miles. But I finished just behind Dave Wiens, a former world champion whose whole season revolves around that race."

    For a man who has often said losing is akin to dying, Armstrong looks briefly satisfied with that second place. But, deadly serious on the bike again, and beyond the claim that he is aiming mainly to raise money for his cancer foundation, Armstrong is plainly chasing an eighth Tour victory. "When people have cancer it's black and white - they live and they win. They lose and they die. I take that same mentality into sport - to win. My friends on the team were always quite surprised that I wasn't that excited to win. They'd say: 'Aren't you excited? You just won the Tour de France for the seventh time?' I was 'Yeah, it's pretty cool'. It would have been very different if I had lost. But now if I'm able to win again, any race, it might be different this time round. We'll see."
     
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  2. Rolfrae

    Rolfrae New Member

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    Thanks for the link Lim. I'm sick of Armstrong's comeback already and he's not turned a pedal in anger yet. Good to see that he's getting interviewed by journalists prepared to ask him about more than wind tunnels and pedal revs. Interesting coments about Wiggins - did he actually come out and say he thought Armstrong was clean? I find that hard to believe.
     
  3. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Thanks Rolf.

    Re Wiggins : except for the article above, i had not read/seen any comments by Wiggins on the subject.


    The Guardians coverage of the sport has been really good for the past few years.
    Donald McRae and Richard Williams have painted the entire picture, warts and all.
     
  4. Flyer

    Flyer Banned

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  5. Leafer

    Leafer New Member

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    What a complete, total, hypocritical, lying ass.
     
  6. Eldron

    Eldron New Member

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    Strangely I'm actually warming to Lance a bit - I was a Jan fan so of course I had to hate Lancey...

    I guess I just like to support underdogs so Lance will be on my favourite list for the 2009 TdF along with Contador (ok so he's not an underdog but he was not allowed to ride in '08 so he gets underdog status in my books), Kloden (yes I was a Telekom fan), Vino (if he rides) and anyone who beats Cadel.

    In a weird twist of fate they're all Astana riders... Ironically Kash was a favourite too.
     
  7. lucybears

    lucybears New Member

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  8. Flyer

    Flyer Banned

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  9. cynic

    cynic New Member

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    We can only hope.
     
  10. DV1976

    DV1976 New Member

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    Other than underdogs you also like to support well-known dopers it seems...
    Food for thought?
     
  11. whiteboytrash

    whiteboytrash New Member

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    Eldron not so fast. It’s the same rhetoric where heard for the seven years of Armstrong’s wins. Most of it is made up and what is most sickening is that he and Bruyneel are again creating this “faux” hatred from the French. For the life of me I cannot find any reference where by French sporting directors have asked the public to link hands and elbow Armstrong off the bike. Its just the same old s=it we had last time.

    Armstrong has a privileged position in the cycling. When he goes to a wind tunnel the media want to turn up. If he goes out training they also want to turn up. If he wants to conduct an interview it’s not just cycling press who want to talk to him but the mainstream media also. However with this privilege he chooses to pump out the same crap he did 5 years ago. ie the French hate him and don’t want him to win and therefore are conspiring that he doped and that anyone who challenges this if a liar. The latest beauty is that Ferrari is a family friend !! and why shouldn’t he have a relationship with him ? I mean come on - what Linda Armstrong drops around to the Ferrari's house for a glass orange juice and cookies ? The problem with all of this jumping up and down about being unfairly treated by the French and that all of this is for Livestrong etc. is that he sucks out all the column space that the newspapers would have given to a “real” story about cycling rather than this angry old man.
     
  12. Eldron

    Eldron New Member

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    A fair point!

    Either I've surpassed the media or I am their bitch...

    Either way I'm gona root for the olde boy at the '09 TdF IF he rides...

    @DV1976 - I'm just bad at guessing characters I suppose - I supported all of them before their drug problems... Nowadays it's pretty much impossible to support any rider that hasn't been implicated in something... To be honest I've gone beyind caring about the drugs - cycling is like WWE - as long as you ignore the drugs and match fixing it's all good.
     
  13. doctorSpoc

    doctorSpoc New Member

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    looks like they changed the part about the Andreus after they threatened a defamation suit against the Guardian insinuating they lied.. not sure if it's still going forward?

    Before:
    Other people, apparently, also lied about Armstrong. Betsy Andreu, whose husband Frankie raced with Armstrong, claims she heard the cyclist tell doctors treating him for cancer that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs. "Her husband lived, trained and raced with me and he said, under oath, 'I have never seen Lance take performance-enhancing drugs'. But go online and, to this day, Betsy blogs 24 hours a day about me. If that ain't sick, what is?"

    Now:
    Betsy Andreu, whose husband Frankie raced with Armstrong, claims she heard the cyclist tell doctors treating him for cancer that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs. "Her husband lived, trained and raced with me and he said, under oath, 'I have never seen Lance take performance-enhancing drugs'. But go online and, to this day, Betsy blogs 24 hours a day about me. If that ain't sick, what is?"
     
  14. bobke

    bobke New Member

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    Lance twitters that he is training on Col de St Roch today.
    I wonder if he has returned there...since his crash.

    For those with short memories, let Frankie remind you how things were back in the day:

    from
    http://www.kangarooconnection.com/Helmetsaveheads.html
    Lance Armstrong and Frankie Andreu
    as written by Frankie Andreu
    Nice, France
    5 September, 2000


    We were in the middle of nowhere when the car appeared. We were in the middle of doing a 4.5-hour training loop. We were riding up the back side of the 15-kilometer Col St. Roch. This road is aone-lane road in so-so condition and it's not used by anyone unless theyhappen to live there. It's a road we've done many times so it wasn't newterritory for us.

    The climb has a couple small downhills and we happened to be on one of thedowns when we came to the blind corner. Lance and I were riding on the front and Tyler was riding just in back of us. We were not bombing the descent;wewere riding casually talkingabout the G.P. Eddy Merckx and how big thetrophies were that Lance and Eki won.

    All of a sudden all three of us let out a yell. At the last moment a car came flying around the corner and since the road is roughly one car-width wide we didn't have much time to think about what to do. We all dove hard to the right to miss the car. The driver saw us at the last moment and didn't even have time to brake. I was on the inside and cleared the car. Tyler, who was a bike length behind
    us, had the critical extra space and he made it. Lance, who was in the middle of the road, had no chance. If we were driving a car we would have hit head on; since we were on our bikes the two of us were able to get by.
    When I saw Lance I thought immediately that he was going to hi the car dead smack in the middle. Lance was going to be decoration on this guy's grill.

    Somehow Lance turned enough to the right. At this time I wa thinking broken leg or hip, but the car missed his legs and hit the rear of the bike. The impact sent him flying over the hood of the car and he landed brutally on the ground. I jumped off my bike and as soon as I turned around Lance was sitting up taking body inventory. Right away I knew he wasn't hurt real badly which was a relief.

    Then as I looked up the road I saw Lance's Trek. Actually, lying there on the road was a bunch of tubes with some Trek stickers on them. Lance's rear triangle got completely ripped off-the chain was holding the rear wheel on and his front forks were broken off.
    His helmet had one huge crack in it.

    My theory is that the car hit the rear part of the bike, tearing the triangle off and then when the front whipped around the forks broke.

    As I was staring at the bike Tyler was talking with Lance to make sure that he was okay. Lance was sitting up with his right arm in his lap; he couldn't move his shoulder. I immediately thought br ken collarbone. Amazingly, after 10 minutes Lance figured out nothing was broken but his shoulder and neck were very sore. He couldn't really move at this point and as each minute passed his shoulder kept getting stiffer and stiffer. We borrowed the driver's cell phone to call for help.

    The driver was an older man with his son and they were coming back from some construction job somewhere. We called Lance's wife and explained what had happened. The hard part was explaining where we were. It was decided that Tyler would ride to the top of the climb to wait for Kristin and I would wait on the road with Lance.

    We finally told the drivers of the car that they could leave. By now, Lance was over the initial shock of crashing and was getting mad about crashing and didn't want to see these French guys anymore.

    As Tyler rode up the mountain to find Kristin, Lance and I waited and waited and waited. I figured it would take her at least an hour to get to us After about a half-hour Lance told me to flag down the next car so we could call Kristin's portable to find out where she was.

    The next car that pulled up was Kristin-1.5 hours later. The entire time we, were out there, not one car passed us. The only car on the road that day happened to meet us at the wrong time on the wrong blind corner.

    Lance slid into his car and Kristin drove to the hospital to get him a check-up. Tyler and I hopped on our bikes and rode home. After seeing what a close call we had, I don't think any of us considered this an unlucky day.It was actually a lucky day for
    Lance Armstrong and Frankie Andreu.
     
  15. poulidor

    poulidor New Member

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    When I read it, I see it as irony, like only Armstrong is saying the truth!

    Poupou, english expert
     
  16. IH8LANCE

    IH8LANCE New Member

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    He didn't say he thought Armstrong was clean - he said he thought it was "fantastic that a champion like that" was coming out of retirement. The reasonable inference from the comment is that doesn't question Armstrong's accomplishments.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/cycling/7608974.stm
     
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