Most of the time when I read about Lance Armstrong, I realize at some point that I don’t know what his sport is. (It’s cycling.) He’s a bike rider and he keeps winning the Tour de France and once a year the media whips itself into a frenzy about his bike riding. And Lance Armstrong has gotten to be famous for riding his bike and winning the Tour de France a ridiculous number of times. And for beating cancer. There don’t seem to be cycling tournaments in the United States. And there don’t seem to be other cyclists than Lance Armstrong, except in the tiny almost invisible cycling industry.
It’s strange. It’s such a minor sport until the Tour de France comes along, and then all media hell breaks loose and Lance Armstrong gets famous all over again and makes a lot of money and beats cancer all over again in the media. And then it’s over, and all the hell that had broken loose is put back in the box and Lance Armstrong and his bike are forgotten. Except for the rumors that he took performance enhancing drugs during his career. The rumors pop up regularly like flotsam and jetsam on the capricious waves of the fame ocean. Lance Armstrong angrily denies them. Another one popped up again today as Sports Illustrated reported new information about Armstrong, who is the focus of a federal grand jury inquiry in Los Angeles.
Armstrong rode for the US Postal Service team. I’ve seen it before, but it really sunk in today. The United States Postal Service sponsors an athlete? Can two things be more incongruous? Does the United States Postal Service sponsor anything athletic other than Lance Armstrong’s bike riding team? How did that happen? Why bike riding? You just know that money, not just stamps, are involved. But how? There’s never been a media peep about the financial arrangement between Armstrong and his team and the United States Postal Service. Didn’t the United States Postal Service, a government agency, have to get permission to make such an arrangement? It sounds suspiciously like the tired old “American taxpayer” footed the (totally secret) bill for this one too
Can anyone seriously doubt the avalanche of stories – they go back over a decade – of former teammates and friends about Armstrong’s dope use? The stories are consistent too in the unpleasant personality that emerges. Things have to be his way or he gets very very angry. It looks though like Lance Armstrong will soon take his place in a disgraceful – if minor – episode in sports history. And, more important, in the history of athletes disrespecting their sport.