I know I know, I’m supposed to do a Netflix top ten review here, but it’s my last week, and I wanted to write about something I've been mulling over all weekend. It's a documentary so that kind of counts, right?
This weekend I was watching the ESPN documentary Lance, and it has one hell of a first scene. Lance starts part one of his documentary by talking about how he expected the public to treat him after he admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs. He expected people to berate him with F-bombs, but it never happened. Until five years later, when Armstrong said that finally, a group of people screamed at him and told him to go F-himself.
At first, I thought well yeah, you cheating idiot, you totally earned that. I couldn’t believe it didn’t happen sooner. Then as the documentary goes on, it seemed like every cyclist laughed when they were asked if they took a performance-enhancing drug. It rubbed me the wrong way, if they were laughing at a question like this, did they all take PED’s?
I was curious, so after the documentary finished, I looked up cyclists' and PED usage stats. I was shocked to see that according to an article on Business Insider, 87% of the top ten finishers in Armstrong's seven Tour de France wins were confirmed cheaters or suspected of cheating.
In the documentary, the cyclists claimed that if you wanted to be successful in the sport, they had to cheat. I originally called BS, but now after seeing this stat, I kind of agree with them.
If 87% of people are cheating, everyone who enters the sport is going to think that if they want to be successful, they too have to cheat. Lance and his team claimed that guys who didn’t take PEDs ended up being left off the team who competed in France. If they weren’t on the team, then they weren’t making any money.
Let's also remember that this is the EPO era. EPO is a PED that was at the time undetectable by the drug tests. That means everyone who was using EPO never had to stop using the drug while competing.
Let's look at the facts from my brief google search and documentary viewing. Basically, everyone was using PED's, there was a PED that they could take that would never get caught, and if you didn't dope you probably weren't going to make the team. All these facts created a system that Lance entered in the early '90s.
Look, am I going to defend all of Lance’s actions? No, the dude was an a**hole. That being said, I definitely have a new perspective on his cheating. It seems to me that Armstrong entered a world where cheating was not only the norm but the expectation. I’m not saying it’s right, but I understand why he took the PEDs.
When I look at Lance’s story, I don’t feel any anger, just sadness. He was in a system that bred cheaters, and he was just another cyclist in a long line of cyclists to fall into this trap. Cycling has always had issues with PEDs, and something tells me that this issue didn't end when Lance went to talk to Oprah. Plus, when I look at it, our guy that cheated beat all of your guys who cheated. USA USA USA!
Gifs courtesy of our website.