I first got into cycling during my freshman year of high school in the summer of 2002. My church youth group at Shiloh Community Church organized a two week cycling trip in June that would tour the countryside of nearby states. The group would use the physical challenges of cycling as an allegory for the spiritual challenges we faced in life. Our physical suffering reminded us of the immense suffering that Jesus endured and overcame on the cross. In the summer of 2003 after my second bike trip a friend of mine invited me over to watch a stage of the Tour de France. That was the year that Lance Armstrong was on his way to win his record matching fifth tour. After watching that mountain stage up l’Alpe d’Huez, seeing Armstrong, an american dominating a sport typically won by europeans, had me hooked. I immediately idolized him not only as a champion in a sport I was growing to love, but also as a champion for cancer survival. His story as a ruthless champion in sport but yet a compassionate everyday man fighting cancer immediately connected with my soul. Nearly 10 years later my soul was crushed and my naïveté exposed.
Since then I have read USADA’s reasoned decision that exposed his doping through numerous eye witness testimonies. It was shocking to hear people like George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie, Christian VandeVelde, Tom Danielson, et. al come clean about their own involvement with doping in the US Postal Cycling team and implicating Lance Armstrong in the process. I then went on to read Tyler Hamilton’s The Secret Race and Reed Albergotti’s and Vanessa O’Connel’s Wheelmen. These exposés came out like a baseball bat in the face. They exposed who Armstrong was behind the camera and the glamour. He was ruthless towards anyone who spoke out against him or did not help him advance his image. He and his team of attack dogs publicly ridiculed people who spoke out against them, spewing profanities, threats of violence, and overwhelming litigations. He destroyed his enemies by publicly demeaning their name and suing them for all they were worth. And he won every time, until now.
While I have come to terms with my fallen hero, it still saddens me to see someone who seemed to do so much good fall from grace. At one point he seemed like an allegorical Christ figure in my life, representing compassion towards those struggling with cancer, and defeating cancer and death himself. But as it is all now revealed, he is just a man, and is imperfect like all the rest of us.
Click here to listen to an interview with the producer of the upcoming film.