x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Time to pedal away, Armstrong

Lance, it is time to quit wasting resources, lawyers and worry in trying to refute every accusation or report about your alleged performance-boosting drug use.

Lance Armstrong continues to cycle through legal battles, one after another.
Lance Armstrong continues to cycle through legal battles, one after another.

Hey, Lance Armstrong. Over here, in the peanut gallery.

Pull off the road, park that fancy two-wheeler of yours and join us for a second. That big lead of yours will hold up. You need to hear this.

It is time to quit.

No, not racing. Even though you turn 40 in a few months, surely there are still plenty of breakaways and attacks in those piston legs of yours.

It is time to quit wasting resources, lawyers and worry in trying to refute every accusation or report about your alleged performance-boosting drug use.

Your latest riposte smacks of desperation. You demanded, through your legal beagles in a letter, that CBS apologise for its report on the news show 60 Minutes for airing an interview in which Tyler Hamilton, your former teammate, rats you out.

A mea culpa from this network?

Dream on, dude.

While you brand Hamilton a liar, he has made similar claims under oath. You must admit: why would he subject himself to perjury charges?

Besides, Hamilton's claims echo those of two more former sidekicks of yours, Floyd Landis and George Hincapie. Either you were a druggie, or you were mean to these guys.

Further, your supposed dope dabbling has drawn the attention of the US Attorney's office in Los Angeles.

The suspicions cannot be easily dismissed. This is what the news media does. Deal with it. We understand why all of this makes you get bent out of shape more than when you lean over the handlebar.

Your hunch that racing authorities have overzealously tried to nail you might be correct. You came over from a cycling-lite nation and hijacked their beloved Tour de France, winning seven straight against the bike-mad Europeans.

As many of your peers were busted, you have managed to score no positives on your drug tests.

Naturally, you do not want to hear an I-told-you-so from the Euro cycling community if your self-defence eventually caves in. You want them to acknowledge that you were as clean as a glass just out of the dishwasher during your career.

We get that.

We also get your fear that any connection to illicit substances could constitute fraud against the US Postal Service, which paid nearly US$32 million (Dh117.5m) from its ever-dwindling account to sponsor your old team.

And we dig your concern that every disparaging headline and television report might chip away at your image as an incomparable American athlete of heroic proportions.

Stop sweating this stuff.

First of all, no amount of vindication from drug-testers or legal authorities will alter the notion in some camps - especially in Europe - that you are a no-account cheat, undeserving of your awards and accolades. This is a losing battle not worth fighting.

As for the possible fraud? Well, your lawyers need something to keep them busy. Seriously, if worse comes to worst, they can negotiate a settlement, with the disputed amount being turned over to a charity. Yours.

Look, the legal system in the States will not drop the hammer on you over transgressions in an everybody-does-it sport that may have occurred outside of their jurisdiction. The Postal Service, struggling for survival, does not want to enter the ring of public perception against you.

As long as you avoid fibbing to the feds, you should be safe. You have built up a ton of goodwill through your altruism.

See, Americans separate Armstrong the sportsman from Armstrong the human. You are different than Barry Bonds and Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger and Kobe Bryant, whose fan support has shrunk because of misdeeds off the field. Their identities as athletes and people are intertwined. When one side errs, the whole package suffers.

Competitive cycling is ignored for all but three weeks in July by most of your countrymen, who believe the Tour de France is a guided travel group.

Your persona has been shaped less for beating other cyclists than for beating cancer.

You not only survived, but hit the road for more racing despite being one testicle shy.

You could have waged war against the disease privately. Instead, you have parlayed your reputation into raising millions of dollars for cancer research and immeasurable awareness of the scourge through the sale of your Livestrong bracelets.

Let us remind you that your endorsement portfolio has not been dented by bad publicity. Nor have donations to your foundation tailed off; in fact, they are climbing as relentlessly as you once did the steep incline in the Pyrenees.

Truth is, most Americans tend to assume all accomplished cyclists in your era juiced up. If the evidence ultimately taints you, we can live with it. We will still Livestrong with you, supporting your noble efforts non-judgmentally.

Now, get back out there and complete the race - the one with other cyclists. Meantime, stop racing - in circles - with the doping stuff. You will never reach a finish line.