This past weekend he did his first half ironman event as a pro. in Panama and, to the great surprise of many, put in an amazing performance, coming in second by under a minute. He swam well and, of course, did well on the bike, but on top of that he put in a 1:17 half marathon at the end at the age of 41. Pretty damned impressive - he's undoubtedly a freak of nature! Hats off to New Zealander Bevan Docherty who ran an amazing half marathon split to become the only pro. who could catch Armstrong off the bike.
|Crossing the line yesterday at Panama 70.3. Not sure why he got to break the tape for second place?|
Just another promotional photo op. I guess.
Lance seems to be an incredibly polarising figure (at least in the cycling and triathlon worlds). Take quick look at forums such as http://www.slowtwitch.com/ and you will see dozens of threads about his performance and almost all of them will feature a heated debate about whether he "doped" or not when he was a professional cyclist. It seems that you have to love him or hate him, but there's very little middle ground.
I so want to believe that he raced clean, but I just can't. So many of his peers have been "busted" for drug use and blood doping and several (including the disgraced Floyd Landis and the more believable Tyler Hamilton and, apparently, George Hincapie) have implicated him. Just this past week both Alberto Contador and Jan Ullrich (two of the recent greats) were banned and fined. It really does seem that "everyone was doing it". Yet a two year case against Lance Armstrong was dropped by federal prosecutors this week. No reason was given. The US Anti-doping Agency (USADA) continues to investigate and cycling great Greg LeMond is on record as saying that he believes that there is "overwhelming evidence" againts Armstrong.
|Doing his thing in the Tour de France with admitted doper Jan Ullrich in tow.|
This brings me to the point of my post.... Is it good news for the sport of triathlon that Lance Armstrong is getting involved? He has a business arrangement with the company (WTC) that puts on the Ironman branded events and there's no doubt that he will bring huge amounts of publicity to the sport. It's also very difficult to fault Lance's Livestrong organisation and the huge of amounts of money it raises and good it does for cancer sufferers and survivors. Yet he's undoubtedly in my mind a flawed character (just read his book "It's Not About the Bike" and think about some of the things he said when he wrote it, now that we have the benefit of hindsight with respect to his personal life etc.). What happens if he starts winning races (including, perhaps, even the Ironman world championships in Kona - it's not completely beyond the realms of possibility) and he's subsequently shown to be doping or to have doped previously? What does that do for triathlon?
Even though Lance Armstrong is undoubtedly an amazing athlete and quite possibly one of the fittest guys in the world, I also think about what it says about top current triathlon pros when he starts smoking them on not only the bike, but also quite possible the swim and the run as well? What sort of message does that send about the current state of the sport? He is undoubtedly freakishly gifted and he has trained hard with the help of the best coaches, equipmet etc. that money can buy, but "Joe Sixpack" won't see that....
So, is he a hero that is good for the sport of triathlon or some sort of pariah that will be hugely detrimental and bring the sport in to disrepute? There are well known Angels and Devils on the pro cycling tour: which one will Lance Armstrong most resemble on the triathlon scene?
I guess that time will tell!