As cyclist Lance Armstrong finally confessed to doping in a television interview this week, the president of Southern Idaho Cycling Klub (SICK) Rick Dayley had one burning question.
“Why Oprah Winfrey, for crying out loud?” Dayley said. “Are you kidding me? ... Is his next appearance going to be Dr. Phil?”
Perhaps that’s not a bad idea. We could all use a couch and a psychologist about now, to sort out all this Armstrong mess.
“It’s complicated,” said Kevin Green, a Burley resident and former professional cyclist and duathlete.
Early in Armstrong’s career, Green competed against and trained with him in the early 1990s. For about two years, they were teammates on Richardson Bike Mart. Green said reaction to Armstrong’s confession has received mixed reaction even among old teammates.
“I talked with one friend who rode with us. He was very close to Lance and he’s extremely upset about it,” added Green, who said he hasn’t personally kept in contact with Armstrong. “I guess I look at it a little bit differently. I think if you put 100 people in that same position, you’re going to have 80 who do exactly the same thing he did. That was a hell of a ride he went on for a decade and a half. He was traveling the world and dating rock stars. When you have the ego that he has, that’s like feeding candy to a kid.”
Rock Temple, owner of Rock’s Cycling & Fitness in Burley, said Armstrong’s confession was a topic of conversation in his shop this week, and “Nobody is really surprised.”
“I’ve never been a Lance Armstrong fan, but I can respect what he did,” Temple said. “He did wonders for bringing cycling to the mainstream in America. Whether he doped or not, he still had to put in the work.”
Critics who bang on Armstrong for seeming arrogant are being unfair, Green said.
“To be the best in the world at anything, you’ve got to be somewhat cocky,” Green said.
That’s who Lance is. That’s who Lance has always been.
“He was a jerk as a kid. The world revolved around him. When that’s happening when you’re 16 years old, that’s going to snowball and get bigger and bigger by the time he gets where he was at,” Green said. “He’s been told his whole life that he was going to be the best in the world. Everybody around him treated him like he was something special and better than everybody else.”
When they first met at a triathlon in 1989, Green noted that Armstrong, then in his late teens, already travelled with an entourage.
Although he was encouraged to participate in blood doping — the act of boosting red blood cells via transfusion — numerous times during his career, Green said he never tried it. However, he suspected that many others, including Armstrong, were doping.
“There were times when I was riding with him early that I thought he was doing something. He would have these humongous gains in his training, even when he was young,” Green said. “You could go out and ride with him for two weeks and feel like, ‘Hey, I can compete with this guy.’ And then three weeks in, he’s so far ahead of you, you’re like, ‘Hey, I’ve been doing the same training, what the hell is going on?’”
When Armstrong was winning seven Tour de France titles in a row after beating cancer, Green thought his old teammate was competing clean.
“I thought maybe he had (doped) before his cancer, but I thought after his cancer and fighting for his life, I didn’t think he would introduce those kinds of substances into his body,” Green said. “Prior to his cancer, I would have said I bet he had at least blood doped, because I knew the culture that I was in with him.”
After watching the Oprah interview, Green says Armstrong deserves his lifetime ban from cycling, but also, “he needs to receive credit where credit is due” for his positive contributions to cycling and cancer awareness through his foundation, Livestrong.
They stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. But, as Green says, “He is talented, and you can’t take that away from him.”