Sunday 23 October 2016

Lance Armstrong, you weren't the worst

Declan Lynch

Published 25/09/2016 | 02:30

Cartoonist: Jim Cogan
Cartoonist: Jim Cogan

Anyone who doesn't feel sorry for Lance Armstrong these days, must have a heart of stone.

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And if you can't muster the basic humanity needed for that, you can be sure that the man is feeling sorry enough for himself to make up for your failure.

How the hell did he get it so wrong? How did he not know, that in the doping game, he was just a man out of time?

He seems now like some ignoble savage, the last of the wild bunch before the whole doping business went 'corporate'.

Any dopers anywhere who came after him would not be making his mistakes, they would come across like much nicer people for a start, in that corporate way of theirs, and they would develop the language of doping so that it could seem like a form of motivational speaking, like it was all down to just wanting it that little bit more than all the others.

As if nobody had wanted it enough before. As if Lance hadn't wanted it enough, Lance who became such a useful bogey-man for the corporate kind, he is probably entitled to a percentage. Going forward.

You couldn't just get out when you had the chance, could you Lance? You were such a terrible man, so disordered in your personality, you just carried on like you were uncatchable. And you nearly were too, Lance, you nearly were...

Because it is really hard these days, to catch a man like Lance, even if you wanted to - partly because, as the general public has been learning in recent weeks, to a large extent there is officially no such thing as doping.

You just discover that you have something wrong with you - the hay fever seems to be a good one - and you get this thing called a TUE (a Therapeutic Use Exemption), which enables you to crank yourself up with enough drugs to cure all the hay fever that everyone in Europe has been suffering since the end of the Second World War.

But I am not judging any individual here, no more than I am judging Lance for anything other than being crazy, and making too many enemies when he should have just put them on the payroll.

How can we judge an individual from, say, Somalia, which has a gross domestic product of about 28 quid, for taking drugs which will enable him to compete with everyone else who is taking drugs? How can we find any fault with that man, on 'moral' grounds? Who do we think we are?

I go with a paraphrase of Alexander Pope here - to dope is human, to forgive divine.

The true darkness here is of the institutional kind, the corporate kind, the lawyerly kind. Though there was a fair bit of darkness in Lance too, he wasn't exactly a lone eccentric in an otherwise normal and healthy culture.

The thing about any massive lie, is that it takes a massive amount of energy to sustain it, and no individual has such energy even if he has the worst dose of hay fever that any man has ever had. It needs all the energy of large institutions, of governing bodies and corporations acting together, along with their lawyers.

And they need to be good at it too, to maintain even some of the illusion that in most sports, it is possible to compete at a high level under your own steam.

Those who care about such matters haven't believed that for years, they have known about TUEs for years, yet such has been the enormity of the effort on the part of so many parties to pretend otherwise, it has taken until now to see even some small understanding of this in the mainstream.

And even then the libel-hunters are lurking, you'll always see plenty of "no suggestion that there is any impropriety", plenty of "no rules have been broken", and any amount of variations on our old friend "Lance Armstrong has never failed a drugs test".

Not that many in the media are even against this stuff, and indeed they are often adding their own massive lies to the great international effort.

Tennis is a sport with an obvious doping culture, yet you could be watching it for years and not hear a word about that, just the odd line about how much "fitter" some player has become, uttered by the commentator in an approving tone.

And if so many of these institutions have kept it going so long, maybe they'll keep it going forever. The pleasure for the connoisseur is partly in hearing them delivering their massive lies, watching these absurdly corrupt sports administrators doing their dance.

And anyone who doubts the tenacity of any governing institution in holding on to its most cherished lie, need only observe the phenomenal energies which have been spent in this country for almost 100 years, pretending that Compulsory Irish is quite a good idea.

What you need really, is some former insider who knows every dirty trick, some very angry man who feels he has been shafted while others ride on.

If only you could find someone like that...

Sunday Independent

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