Monday, 17 January 2011

Tour Down Under - bigger than Armstrong

In case somebody doesn't know, Lance Armstrong is in Adelaide. As last year, he's entering the Santos Tour Down Under, last year it was to mark his comeback 2.0, this year it is to end his international career as a professional cyclist.

I wrote about my expectations for the TDU earlier, with the sprinters duel as my favourite. And I'm glad to say that my view is shared by many. However, I see that Lance Armstrong again is at the top the headlines. The fact he's there, the fact that he's paid an appearance fee rumoured to be 2 million $, and the secret article is stealing the headlines. Some people react to the fact that Armstrong has only committed 50 000 $ to the flood victims.

Tomorrow, the much anticipated article from Sports Illustrated will be distributed to the world, and already cycling journalists all over the world are trembling with excitement and speculations go through the roof. Rumours says they got the right to. The rumours is that this article, written by Selena Roberts, will bring Lance Armstrong down. It will be about doping and Roberts has been written some articles about doping in sport before as well, including baseball where she became famous for her direct tone. Nothing indicates she's somehow intimidated by the Texan's "look" which Armstrong has been famous of using on journalists and others he doesn't agree with. This article was supposed to hit the headlines before Christmas but well-paid layers kept it away the headlines at the time.

Nothing new under the sun
Some might ask what the big commotion is. I don't disagree with them, but as everybody knows, rumours have a tendency to grow and grow and grow. So Armstrong is in trouble again for alleged doping rumours, something he's faced year in and year out since the Tour in 1999 starting with Bassons incident. Sometimes, the rumours have taken a new direction, like when L'equipe made allegations against Armstrong in 2005, or Floyd Landis' "telling the truth". Maybe will this be it, but again, my personal view is that rumours is just that and shall be treated as so until they turn out otherwise.

Is anything bigger than Armstrong?
I was standing on Champs-Élysées in 2009 waiting for the riders to enter Paris, watching the caravan. I remember seeing the Livestrong cars came by and everybody cheered and yelled for Armstrong. Even the French did so, not only American. And the Nike store had a whole floor devoted to Armstrong and his foundation. So yes, Armstrong is big in cycling.

The Tour Down Under is bigger than Armstrong. No matter what is written, said or divulged, the Santos Tour Down Under is a week of celebration for Australian cycling as well as the kick-off for professional cycling year. I have no intentions of letting any revelations concerning Armstrong and his past put an end to that. Never ever shall cycling turn it's deaf ear to doping and there will be cast a shadow over TDU if it happens, no doubt, but cycling is bigger than Armstrong.

So let's hope that TDU will be in focus tomorrow. By all means, the article will be debated and Armstrong will probably have to answer some questions, and I think that is a fair thing. If Armstrong is found guilty of doping sometime, this must be revealed and his legendary history as a cyclist will be damaged forever, there is no doubt in my mind. I still hope for Oz cycling and cycling in general, that this will be a week to celebrate.

UPDATE 1700:
It appears Sports Illustrated decided not to publish their story after all. Well, to be correct, a story will be published probably tomorrow, but many alleged controversy fragments have been left aside.

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