I’ve been a little obsessed with this Lance Armstrong story over the past few months. I devoured The Secret Race and have been reading everything I can since. With today’s announcement that Armstrong will be stripped of his Tour wins I’m sure we’ll see another round. The two questions I was left with through all my reading have been: First, what long-term effects do these drugs have on a person? (For those that haven’t dug deep, most of the doping revolves around EPO which, in my non-medical understanding, raises your blood oxygen level.) Second, how did it all happen? The latter question is a common one after a house of cards crumbled (how many financial meltdown books and stories did we read).
While lots of people have gone through how it happened from an athlete perspective, it’s interesting to read this piece by Steve Madden, former editor of Bicycling Magazine, on how he was complicit in the whole thing. Here’s a snippet:
Armstrong exerted a Corleone-like influence in the cycling industry. Through his various sponsorship and endorsement deals, he could make an advertiser disappear from our pages with the same flick of an elbow that one rider uses to silently tell another to pass him. Helmets, sunglasses, wheels, bikes, all of these companies’ ads were the lifeblood of the magazine, the one that paid my salary and that of my staff. If we couldn’t make money during the boom years, when could we? Besides, dirty or not, it was a thrill to watch a cyclist, one of us, assume what we all knew was the rightful place among the sports world’s elite. Cycling is populated with misfits and loners. Very few of us sat at the cool kids’ table in the high school cafeteria, and none of us was a homecoming king or queen. And all of a sudden, there’s Lance, Sportsman of the Year on the cover of Sports Illustrated, hanging with Bono, dating Sheryl Crow and having a building named for him at Nike headquarters. A cyclist! One of us leg-shaving geeks, right up there with Michael Jordan. Finally! Now our sport would break out!