Many people facing financial ruin and feeling like the Voldemort of the sports world (his choice of comparison not this writer’s) would not step back into the public eye in a attention-getting star turn. But, Lance Armstrong has never been typical. Still, Lance “Voldemort” Armstrong’s decision to return to Europe and ride in part of the 2015 Tour de France, even for charity, either shows a “tour de bravery” for the disgraced athlete or denial about how much his lies and actions hurt his sport.
Armstrong is going ahead with controversial plans to ride two legs of the Tour de France route next month for a cancer charity. The planned participation of the 43-year-old, who was disgraced and dethroned as a doping cheat, is controversial at best. His return to the Tour de France, the scene of his greatest triumphs, winning seven straight, would have been celebrated – if the triumphs were not the scenes of his greatest failure too (a protracted doping scandal that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his Tour victories, which led to his titles being stripped).
His return to the race could be seen as bravery, but Armstrong has long been in denial – in spite of pending financial ruin in pending lawsuits – that he deserves the shunning he has gotten. The cyclist told reporters two weeks ago that he felt like “that character in Harry Potter they can’t talk about? Voldemort.” He feels that he is the cycling world pariah and has become he who cannot be named. Armstrong is also facing a $100 million lawsuit against him tied to the scandal.
Many in the sport have asked him to not take part in the July ride out of respect to current riders. Armstrong feels strongly about participating in the cancer charity portion for good reasons – he personally conquered cancer in 1996 and he is participating in One Day Ahead, a charity cycle for Cure Leukaemia, on the Tour de France’s route as part of a team led by British football star Geoff Thomas, who is also a cancer survivor.
Thomas is planning to ride the entire Tour de France route with the competitive riders. Armstrong will only join the group for the hilly stages on July 16 between Muret and Rodez and July 17 from Rodez to Mende (these are stage 13 and 14 of the race). While Armstrong insists scheduling conflicts are keeping him away from the race until then, some are suggesting that Armstrong is avoiding the big crowds at the start and end of the race. They clearly are ignoring the fact that his participation on any days will draw huge crowds of media, hecklers and possibly fans.
Thomas has acknowledged that others participating in the charity portion were unsure about his inclusion. But he has spent time with them, and they believe he will help boost their ultimate effort to raise money for cancer. “It’s been documented what he’s been through and what he’s done,” noted Thomas. “As a sportsman I don’t condone that whatsoever but I look at him as a cancer survivor and a guy who has raised $500m [£318m] for the cancer community. Getting involved in the fight again – I can’t see any harm in that at all.”
Lance Armstrong’s planned Tour de France return will undoubtedly help raise money, but whether the former sports star want to show up out of bravery or denial that he did anything wrong. He actually told the BBC that he would not use performance-enhancing drugs if he was racing in today’s day and age, but the cyclist admitted he probably would use again if he was back in time during the 1990s when others were.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
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