Sports Illustrated turns up the heat

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Lance Armstrong has long been a figure of suspicion but today’s revelations in Sports Illustrated include new allegations and more detail on stories that you might have seen before.

Down and out?

Rather than comments on the specifics, although I’d urge to read the article, I wanted to take a longer look at things.

Federal frustration?
First, a wild thought. It could be that the federal case is struggling and that the agents involved have decided to leak some elements out due to frustration. Unable to nail the case, they can at least air some of the information that they’ve come across. This might be unlikely but it’s possible.

Everyone’s talking
But my biggest observation is that the article is being covered by Sports Illustrated. Known to many because of its swimsuit calendar, this is an all-American sports magazine and website with plenty of coverage of the NFL, basketball and baseball. It’s Main Street meets mainstream media.

So it marks a big turn when sections of the media like this are willing to carry hefty allegations over someone who has bordered on a national hero. Once the preserve of internet forum crackpots, the story slowly became more accepted and now the idea that Armstrong doped his way around France has gone totally mainstream.

The force of denial
A final observation is that some who lives a lie can believe in their story very strongly. A lesson from the Festina trials and other cases is that several riders struggled to admit they were doing wrong. From an outsider’s view, it’s an obvious breach of the rules conducted on an industrial scale. But a lot of pros at the time were using “heavy doping” and it was simply seen as part of the job. Now I happen to believe that’s fundamentally mistaken and risky. But don’t underestimate the force of denial, sometimes it’s not about putting on a brave face, the rider might be totally convinced inside.

Anyway, Armstrong’s career is coming to an end now and I suspect his reputation is likely to come crashing down with it. It’s now open season for the media pack-hunt.

beev January 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I read the whole SI article, and view myself as well versed in the whole story. For me 90%+ was not new, and what was struck me as "weak". Not necessarily untrue, but just not good for court.

I think the Feds are still to go after the right guys on this case, and they are unlikely too either due to repercussions outside of the sport itself….

Anonymous January 19, 2011 at 2:23 pm

perhaps the argument will not be good enough for the courts, but that does not mean there wasn't doping.

With millions of dollars supporting he and his image since he was a teenage triathlete turned cyclist, Lance has had several companies interested in their success as well as his. In all likelihood these same companies and the individuals involved with these companies will invest more money to assure that the highly lucrative image remains unscathed.

TheInnerRing January 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm

beev: could I say that if it's not new for you… for the typical American maybe this is quite hard hitting stuff?

Anonymous: that's possible but companies can dump and run too. They've made a fortune from associating already, there are many precedents of companies running to new icons. Pepsi and Michael Jackson etc.

Gillis January 19, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Although S.I. focuses on typically on what are mainstream sports in the U.S. they often include top athletes in other sports. I'm not a huge follower of the magazine, but I know they've covered more hardline issues before. Besides, a magazine like Velonews, arguably the largest, most influential cycling magazine in the U.S., has not usually been one to carry the torch on heavy stories like this. I feel because of their position within the industry, as probably with most cycling media outlets, it's better for them, and their advertisers who might be involved (such as Oakley in this case), to stand aside and report on the reporting.
Like Beev said though, much of the facts aren't new, but since the S.I. audience is possibly unaware, it all needs to be said again. But what is new I think carries some weight and is interesting. Although I was expecting more.
Perhaps it is a cry more public support though. The public opinion with LA is slowly shifting but been hard to sway.

David N. Welton January 19, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I just hope that cycling as a sport doesn't take a beating in the US as a consequence of Lance's downfall. It's always kind of fragile there.

TheInnerRing January 19, 2011 at 11:20 pm

True. But it's a great sport and as I often rediscover, sometimes on a daily basis, any pro can let down the sport but nothing beats riding to the summit of a local climb or taking a hairpin bend at speed. Hopefully the revelations aren't coming as a shock to fans or sponsors, there is still plenty to be optimistic about.

Anonymous January 20, 2011 at 9:25 am

the sport will continue with or without Armstrong. People who were only motivated to ride because of Lance were doing it for the wrong reason and would have eventually stopped anyhow.

Cycling is a beautiful sport and will continue to be.

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