They forgot cycling and their favorite race those years, but they can never be forgotten. Nor will the memory ever stop parading every July when it is the turn of the most desired month of the most suffered sport. Because every July it exposes with more emphasis the winners of the Tour de France. It evokes all the winners since 1903, which Maurice Garin was the first and Tadej Pogacar the last and the penultimate, those five of Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain, but also warns of a repressed time in the unconscious of cycling but that it happened, of that existential emptiness between 1999 and 2005, the Tours that no one won, as if they were the obvious remains of a page of his history that he started tormented.
No general view on the official website of the Tour of the winners that shows the void, but, although hidden, the anomaly is still there: each classification of the indicated seven editions begins with the second classified: Alex Zullethree times Jan Ullrich, Joseba Beloki, Andreas Klöden and Ivan Basso.
The simple and logical unknown, the erased champion, the one that never existed or so the powers of this sport consider it: Lance Armstrong. Even today the American means a violent clash of emotions. At the forefront, for some, that of the flawless idol who buried a terrible cancer and rose to divo in the category of superhero who looked at the world seven times from the top of the Champs-Elysées. At his wheel of fame, his livestrong foundation to spread the worldwide campaign against cancer. Behind, hidden and shown in public in January 2013 for others, the false champion without moral limits, built on lies and doping, silenced with the gag of coercion and the threat to those who dared to sing.
The day Armstrong decided that enough was enough, that he couldn’t keep quiet about it anymore, he poured out his sins in a kind of public confessional with the world audience listening to the journalist Oprah Winfrey. Lance stopped playing the character, the one with the “no, never, never” recited so many times in other interviews and even under oath before the American justice itself. The one who had fired so much with a sometimes defiant tone and a haughty look at his feeling of offense caused by his skeptics and unbelievers, those who did not believe in the physical metamorphosis of a powerful classicomaniac – world champion and San Sebastian Classic champion before of getting sick in 1996-, to unreachable climber derived from cancer. As brief and direct were his answers as Winfrey’s questions:
-Did you use prohibited substances or blood transfusions in all your victories in the Tour?
-Is it possible to win the Tour without doping seven times in a row?
In my opinion, no.
Sunken face and glazed and frightened eyes, the depressing image of Lance unmasked by force, already dispossessed three months before of his empire by the UCI, was moving. Although he said nothing, he said everything, a striking contrast to how much he wanted to say to the world in 2004, when he went, personally and also in public, to settle a personal matter with Simeoni, the one who had exposed in a trial the instigator of everything illegal that entered Lance’s body, Dr. Michelle Ferrari, by saying that he had prescribed EPO and accusing Armstrong. The Italian, lost more than two and a half hours with the overall champion, jumped out of the peloton in search of a breakaway and the Texan went with him. A few kilometers, rolling, pat on the back, return to the peloton and evil smile at the camera with the sinister gesture of “shut your mouth”.
“You have made a big mistake, you should not have testified against Dr. Ferrari and especially in suing me for defamation. I have no problems, I have time, money and I can destroy you whenever I want. The transalpine revealed years later that he told him in an ESPN documentary. Armstrong acted for many as in a mafia clan. Imposing the law of silence on those who dared to release something of the clandestine customs in the US Postal team led by Johan Bruyneel and of the blood stamps, the initiation rite of the ‘Cosa Nostra’ so practiced behind the scenes with transfusionsalthough also with EPO and cortisone like other methods of the American team’s sophisticated doping system. But one of his accomplices violated the ‘Omertá’.
And Landis dropped it all
In the year I after Armstrong, 2006, Floyd Landis prolonged the American hegemony in the Tour but after a couple of days of wearing yellow in Paris he tested positive by tripling the normal values of testosterone so that this ‘Grande Bouclé’ would end up in Oscar Pereiro. In a stirring and long fictional story with a vengeful air, Landis’s attempts to retain the jersey included a hacking attempt of the computer system of the laboratory that had detected the positive – that of Chatenay-Malabry, to modify the results.
Little did Armstrong know that his 2009 restart would spell the end. After serving a sanction, Landis, repudiated by all the teams and already 34 years old, demanded a place from Armstrong in his new formation of 2010, the Radio Shack, gestated after clashes with Alberto counter in Astana. Lance’s refusal led to the desire to sing from his compatriot, determined to be the informer who would drag Armstrong with him to nothing. He confessed what the Texan and his team had been up to for so many years. United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) produced a devastating report with the testimonies of more former colleagues of Lance – such as Hincapie, Leipheimer, Zabriskie and Hamilton-, to which the UCI adhered to take away from the American his seven Tours. It was in 2012 and in an October, definitely infamous month for Lance to be the same in which he was diagnosed with cancer. Three months after the suspension, the truth came out, not regret.
– Do you think you did something wrong? Winfrey asked him.
-No, and I know it’s scary.
Lance had no remorse for his actions, another argument for those who criminalized him, but that’s how he felt. In the almost decade consumed since his confession, Armstrong has repented not so much of substance but for the shapes as stated in subsequent interviews with media such as the BBC and NBC. “What I did was not legal, but it wouldn’t change a thing. We did what we had to do to win. I would like to change the man who did those things, maybe not the decisions, but the way he acted. The way he treated people, the way he couldn’t stop fighting. It was unacceptable, inexcusable.” ensures.
The American has always relied on doping as widespread ritual in the peloton in those years when terms like “hematocrit”, “biological passport” and other words related to doping. “It’s like saying that we had to inflate our tires or that we had to carry water in the drums. It was part of the job.” he said to Winfrey. Actually, some also think, Armstrong was nothing more than a scapegoat that he paid for everyone.
Armstrong’s new life
Lance Armstrong has been reborn more than once. He did it after the testicular cancer that ravaged his body in 1996 and forced him to go through a process of chemotherapy and neurosurgery to remove a tumor from his head that also gave rise to a metastasis. And after the world condemned him in the television trial before Winfrey. The former broker had to sell his mansion and squandered almost all his fortune -more than 100 million dollars-, between lawsuits, such as those of sponsors and the US federal government, since the country’s postal service was the one that gave the team its name. He was banned for life and banned from participating in any Olympic sport, a restriction effective in 2013 when the International Swimming Federation (FINA) prevented him from participating in a test.
Financially, Armstrong, now 50, has restored his health. The shares she bought from Uber in 2009 worth $100,000 have netted her millions in “an operation that has saved my family”, as he himself admitted and the American has other investments, such as the one he made in the company Athletic Brewing, which brews non-alcoholic craft beer. The Texan has also been in the news these years for founding and directing two podcasts: THEMOVE, of cycling analysis, and The Forward, where he interviews personalities from different fields. In addition, his best legacy, the Livestrong Foundation, continues to function. In all this time, she has also been seen in a meeting with Jan Ulrich, after helping the German to overcome his psychiatric problems.
The proper functioning of the different spheres of your life also encompasses the most intimate and emotional. “I am proud to have rebuilt my life without the help of the media or networks, I only feel indebted to my family and my listeners. I feel calm on the street, people show an indifferent attitude towards me”, he reflected in an extensive interview granted in October to the podcast of the doctor Peter Attia. A talk in which he dropped that the quarrels that could have arisen with his colleagues from the US PostalDespite the fact that many of them gave him away as testimonies, they have been left behind. Except in two cases.
“In that team, 95% of the runners were brothers and we would go to war together again, except for Floyd (Landis) and Tyler (Hamilton), who never were,” said Lance, who shares photos of the different areas on the networks. that occupy him, continues to claim the fight against cancer -he made a profound publication on Instagram on the day of the 25th anniversary of his diagnosis-, and above all, enjoying sports. He has only gained a little over six kilos since he retired. “I go out on a bike in the mountains, if I didn’t do sports I would go crazy.” And he crushes himself longing for the agony of his best days. “I have a rule never to take the car when I ride my bike. If I trained well for a week or two, I don’t think I’d move 500 watts like I used to, but maybe I’d hit 350.” Almost a decade later, Lance is still Armstrong, the reborn, the sufferer for enjoyment, the one who regrets nothing. Or almost nothing.
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