I've seen a lot of people weighing in on Lance Armstrong lately, especially since it was announced he'd be interviewed by Oprah for some reason. Almost all of the feedback has been negative — "he's a bozo," "just go away," "I hate that guy," etc. — and probably for good reason.
He's made a lot of people mad.
But not me. That doesn't mean I'm a defender or a denier or anything. He doped, and for a long time. And while he may have helped damage professional cycling (while actually also helping it grow), it makes no difference to me. And, to be honest, I'm not sure why so many people are so pissed about it. Did he take money from you? A job? Are you mad because he duped so many for so long? Even so, that probably has no impact on you, unless you're super-bummed that you believed to begin with.
Ultimately, he's just a guy who won a lot of professional bike races. And he cheated, yes. But professional sports of the last 20-plus years have been rife with cheaters. As a baseball fan, I learned in 1998 to separate my love of the game from the guys playing it. Professional sports are merely entertainment, and not a part of your identity (unless you're employed in professional sports).
And, actually, Lance and the 2005 Tour de France got me back into bikes. In the early winter of 2005, when I was pretty much at my peak as a runner (I was pretty fast for a guy who didn't run in college), I managed to get plantar faciitis in both feet. After some time off, I tried again to give it a go. No dice.
In the spring, Chris' brother came for a visit and wanted to check out some of the local bike shops. He was going to do RAGBRAI by himself — an 18-year-old kid just out of high school. I hadn't been in a shop in 10 years, probably, so to see the shiny new bits on display was eye-opening. And then I thought, "Well, if I can't run, riding would be pretty cool." Also, the idea of riding across the state seemed appealing, for some reason.
Chris got on board after that and by summer, we each had bikes. As I rode more and more — I worked at night, and thus had all day to ride — I began seeking out more knowledge. And the most publicized bit of cycling at that time was Lance Armstrong's go at his seventh Tour title. I should point out that I didn't want to "be like Lance," and I didn't have any deslusions of grandeur. I was just interested in bikes, and following the available news made me more interested.
We rode RAGBRAI in 2006 — the year Lance first did a few days. We were jammed into the town square in Newton, Iowa, along with 10,000 other people to listen to him speak. It was light on cycling and heavy on cancer advocacy. But it was crazy to be within 50 feet of him. Floyd Landis won the Tour a few days later. (Coincidentally, I ended up talking with Chris Brewer of the Lance Armstrong Foundation a year later in Hampton, Iowa, on the day that Vinokourov was popped for doping in the 2007 Tour.)
As I read more about the other side of cycling in the Landis aftermath, I started putting the pieces together. He was one of a number of former US Postal riders who'd been popped, including Tyler Hamilton and Roberto Heras. Manuel Beltran and Paolo Savoldelli also got bounced at one point, though long after they left USPS.
What if ... what if they'd all been doping all along? But the USPS/Discovery system was so dialed in that there was no way they'd be caught? More money, more resourses, better science? And when those guys left, they didn't have the system in place to keep operating undetected?
I was right, as it turned out — though it took years to confirm that. I read most of the 200-page USADA summary on the Armstrong case when it came out in October. "Wow," I thought. "Serious business." And then I went on with my business. It makes no difference to me. It doesn't affect me at all. It doesn't affect most people at all.
So no, it really doesn't bother me all that much. I'm into cycling more for myself than for watching professionals. Sure, it's fun to see the world's best doing something I can easily relate to, but it's more fun doing it yourself. Go ride your bike. Don't worry about Lance or anybody else. They're just guys on bikes.