Sunday 23 October 2016

Off the Ball: Armstrong no average nobody

Ger Gilroy

Published 28/09/2016 | 02:30

Lance Armstrong. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
Lance Armstrong. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

"The hardest thing for me was leaving the life, I still love the life, we were treated like movie stars with muscle, we had it all just for the asking...but now it's over...I'm an average nobody, I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook."

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At the end of 'Goodfellas' Ray Liotta's character Henry Hill addresses the audience directly so we don't miss the dig at us. He's in the courtroom ratting out his accomplices when finally he's had enough and reframes the entire story as a rejection of normal life, of waiting in line, of bad food and an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. He's rejecting us and the lives we lead, unapologetic about his criminality but cursed by the repercussions.

Lance Armstrong has lived the Henry Hill life, point-blank refused to be a civilian and now has this curious afterlife to live out. Depending on when you check his Twitter bio, it'll still occasionally describe him as a seven-time Tour de France winner. Currently it's "Love the suffer-fest". Maybe he's re-emerging into the real world. He's got a podcast and a bike shop and some looming legal problems which seem to prevent him from fully explaining his doping programme.

Read more: Why I'm struggling to root for 'Big Darren'

We have to live with him in our world too of course. He's in Dublin next month for a conference and there's been plenty of debate about paying a confessed cheat to tell his story. It feels somehow wrong to be rewarding the cheater for his actions. On the face of it, it's exactly the opposite of what's supposed to happen in sport. The decision to get Ewan MacKenna to conduct the interview guarantees at least that he'll be held to account on the night.

But if he wants to be a part of the real world, then Armstrong needs to tell the full facts of his sporting misdeeds: why he sought to ruin Floyd Landis, answer the irrefutable proof that he doped when he came back and offer clean sport something to cling on to. Otherwise he's just another Henry Hill, only angry because he got caught and we're the schnooks, paying to hear his story.

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