Thursday, January 17, 2013

Shame on You, Lance....Shame on You, Oprah

Yesterday morning I woke up in Rwanda to another barrage of Lance stories on Twitter, Facebook and plastered all over the internet.  It made me ill, physically ill, you know when you have that little bit of throw up which works its way stealthily up your esophagus until you're hit with that twinge of acidic bile at the back of your throat?  That is exactly how I felt.

A friend of mine from the Outspoken Cyclist Facebook page had posted: 

I think I'm just going to stop posting (and/or reposting) all the articles about Lance Armstrong... too much information. There must be other news... :-)

To which there were several comments of agreement.  One commenter posted a link to the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, the first race of the 2013 Africa Tour season in Gabon.  I seconded his comment as six of our riders from Team Rwanda are currently there competing.  

And then....I took a big glug of water and I got on my bike.  I rode out our gate and down the dirt road with ten remaining Team Rwanda members, some veterans, some newbies and we started our training session for the day.  

I had a lot of time to think after a quick drop by the team on the first climb.  My thoughts circled back to Lance, Oprah and the media mayhem surrounding his "confession".  

I was one of the people who desperately wanted to believe in Lance I am now disgusted at his apparent confession, not to be remotely confused with remorse.  I feel duped.

You see, it's all about Lance and only Lance.  He really doesn't care about anyone but him.  Feel free to disagree with me, it is just my take, my blog.

IF Lance was truly sorry, truly remorseful, he would have stayed out of the limelight and started to put his life back together peacefully.  He would have reflected on the damage he inflicted on the sport, the deception to his fans and most difficult to imagine, his volunteers of his Foundation.  The people who continued to believe in Lance and his work with cancer.  Really it was the people in the trenches raising the money, believing in the cause.  

Do I believe Lance has done some good things, absolutely.  Do I believe he was sincere with some people, primarily cancer patients in his dealings one on one with them, I pray it's an absolutely.   Do I believe he helped grow cycling in the US?  Yes, to some extent.  He got Americans on bikes, we stayed on bikes and embraced the love of cycling on our own terms however. 

But none of the good in the past can make up for the lies and the deception of the present and the current lack of remorse.  

In a piece on the Huffington Post this morning, James Moore writes, 

Anyone who thinks Lance Armstrong's current apologia is more than self-serving is more naïve than people who think it's normal to ride a bike up a mountain faster than most athletes can ride one down. Thefederal whistle-blower lawsuit filed by former teammate Floyd Landis has the potential to financially destroy liar Lance. Landis claims in the suit that the U.S. Postal Service was defrauded of more than $30 million dollars by Lance, Landis, and their teammates because they used drugs and blood-doped. If he wins the case, Landis could get triple damages, which is close to $100 million. (His share would be a third.) That $100 million is the approximate value of Armstrong's fortune. He'd be wiped out to pay the court claims. And Landis would be comfortable for the rest of his life.
Armstrong's attorneys are reportedly scurrying to reach a negotiated settlement with Landis, who Lance called a liar more times than he called him a teammate or a friend. They need to work out a deal before Thursday because that's the last day on which the U.S. justice department will decide whether to join the lawsuit.
Lance is trying to save Lance.  Really, that's all it's ever been.
What sickens me most is all the talk surrounding this upcoming interview.  Lance is continuing to get the press he craves, whether positive or negative, they are talking about Lance.  
The world is talking about his upcoming interview and it is consuming every apparent ounce of media when half a world away, everything that is right and good with the sport of cycling is going unnoticed.  The Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon is the start of the racing season on the Africa Tour.  Here is where the European pros shake off the winter cob webs and the boys of Africa give them a race they never imagined.  After Stage 3 there are seven Eritreans in the top 20.  This is what I should see on Facebook, Twitter and the internet every morning.
I live in the country of second chances, Rwanda, everyone here, including us, the ones who run Team Rwanda, have needed forgiveness, have needed a second chance.  But those needs come in their own time, through steady work on self and making amends for our wrong doings, quietly, personally.  We do not go on Oprah.  But then again, Oprah wouldn't make any money from our stories.
I think about it from an addict's standpoint.  To recover, to make amends as a recovering addict you are supposed to personally right the wrongs you have inflicted on others.  Lance is an ego addict of mega proportion!  The people he needs to apologize to are the ones he intimated to keep quiet, to keep his secrets.  He needs to apologize to his team, all his teams.  He needs to do this outside the limelight.  
The only reason he has emerged from his self imposed "hovel"...however, horrible a "hovel" in Hawaii can to be able to compete again.  It has nothing to do with remorse, redemption or forgiveness.  It's about Lance.  He wants to race.  Once again, it's about him.  He's going to point fingers, skate blame and inflict more damage on a tarnished sport all because he wants to win a few triathlons.  Michael Specter from the New Yorker hit it spot on in his blog yesterday, 
You see, Lance wants to compete in triathlons and other sporting events and U.S.A.D.A. won’t let him—unless he owns up to what he did. That’s his reason. He wants to get back on the bike. But he will only race again (and probably not for years, in any case) if he names names, implicates colleagues, coaches, friends—many of the very people he threatened to destroy if they ever revealed the truth about him.
Despite having been spectacularly wrong about Lance in the past, I will make one more prediction: Lance will talk and talk and talk. After all, he wants something for himself, and what else matters to him? Because Lance Armstrong is not a stand-up guy. And he never has been.

Here comes that throw up in the mouth again...
And Oprah...SHAME on you!  I love Oprah.  I will still love Oprah, but she has sold her soul to the devil to apparently capture some much needed ratings boost. you need the money, the publicity that much?  When I first heard of the Oprah interview I was slightly hopeful.  With the expansion to a two day interview and the clandestine teaser promoted on CBS this morning by Oprah herself, I am disappointed.  This will not be anything more than a platform for Lance to continue the downward spiral of this beloved sport.  Shame on you Oprah for buying into this sham.
Now...I could be totally wrong.  We will see after the interview.  It just is not looking good.  If I am wrong, my apologies.  I will not be watching.
Here's the deal....SHAME on us, the public.  We will watch this interview like a drive by on the 405 with a 20 car pile up and hovering Lifeflight helicopters swirling overhead.  For some bizarre reason we are drawn to the most heinous scenes like moths to a porch light on a cool summer night in September.  
My wish is no one watches the interview.  Yes, and I still believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.  
My wish is we watch the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, oh, that's right it's not showing anywhere because it appears it is not news/sports worthy.  
My wish is Oprah would give the stage to a cyclist like Adrien Niyonshuti.  The number one comment every reporter at the Olympics said to me after their interview with Adrien was "what a humble athlete."
Adrien is humble.  He is thankful for the opportunity to become the first Rwandan cyclist to race in the pro peloton with the first African Continental Pro Team, MTN Qhubeka.  Adrien also goes about quietly helping the young boys and girls in his community of Rwamagana in the Eastern Province of Rwanda.  This year when he came home for the Tour of Rwanda he met with community leaders, the Rwandan Cycling Federation and his supporters in his hometown.  He has launched the Adrien Niyonshuti Cycling Academy, a place for young riders to visit in the morning on their way to school for a good meal, one they wouldn't have otherwise.  After school they come to the center to pick up their bikes for their afternoon training session.  Adrien provides all of this with a few donations and his own personal investment.  Lance meet Adrien.  Look into the eyes of a young man who at the age of six lost six of his brothers in the 1994 genocide and who helped bury 60 of his family members.  Tell Adrien you cheated and helped tarnish the image of a sport where Adrien has placed all his hopes and dreams and those of the kids at his cycling academy.
Lance made more in one day than Adrien will see in a lifetime, yet, Adrien gives of himself to foster the love of cycling and to give the teenagers of Rwanda a picture of life outside subsistence farming.  Adrien gives hope.
Every day I wonder how to get the stories out of Africa into the world.  I want the world to see what is happening on this continent.  The young men and hopefully soon, the young women who grow up racing 50 pound single speed bikes, who live in mud huts and haul water and charcoal so their families can eat.  This is the future of cycling.  
Help me tell these me spread the word.  I am one person writing a blog from my desk in Rwanda.  My wish is this meager personal viewpoint and rant about Lance, Oprah and the insanity of this upcoming interview goes viral.  If it stops one person from tuning in and not feeding the beast of egos, than it has been worth it.  If it causes one person to check out the Tropicale Amissa Bongo or go to our Facebook page or Twitter, or read stories about Ethiopian Cycling, Eritrean Cycling or MTN Qhubeka then we have a tiny media victory over the Lance and Oprah circus.
So what would you like to see happen next?
I’d like to see this burn as hot as it needs to, for as long as it needs to. And then, once it’s done, I’m looking forward to seeing what rises from the ashes. 
I’m looking forward to writing about riding my bike and joking about bikes and riders and riding.

If you want to see what rises from the ashes, here's a glimpse.  This is the future of cycling Post Lance...say good night Lance.

Adrien with his kids at his new cycling academy in Rwamagana, Rwanda


  1. Now that the first part of the interview has been aired it seems even worse - see e.g. the reviews on the Guardian website. A few random comments:-

    1. as a follower of all things Rwandan i well recall Adrien and Lance being photographed together at the Tour of Ireland a few years back. This must have seemed a very big deal to Adrien at the time and since (I guess?) but must now seem very hollow. The effect of Lance's behaviour goes far and wide.

    2. as an uncle/sponsor to a several young Rwandans I struggle to monitor everything from afar and then impose a zero tolerance approach to dishonesty. So far Lance has shown that dishonesty can pay and even when you get found out there are PR people who will help you "rehabilitate your brand". This is not helpful.

    3. i wonder how many young cyclists have lost their jobs or sponsorship as a result of Lance's behaviour

    4. the case also illustrates that different rules seem to apply to different nationalities. Lance is American and big enough that he is now an embarassment. Would he get the soft touch chance to talk on Oprah if he was Uruguayan (like the footballer Suarez) or African? No.

    1. Thank you Anonymous for your comments....

      My thoughts:
      1. It is hollow for him. Adrien is angry. A couple of months ago Adrien was speaking to the kids at the local tennis/running club. One of the young kids asked about doping (mind you these are rural kids in Rwanda). I have never seen Adrien so passionately talk about anything like he talked about doping. He was angry. Adrien is a devout Muslim, he doesn't drink, much less fill his body with chemicals. He told the children that.

      2. I agree there are different standards for different people. It is sad. We have a ZERO policy on dishonesty, lying or stealing. One young man lost his place on the team for stealing a $3 razor. It wasn't so much the theft as he was given four opportunities to tell the truth and he continued to lie. All we can control is our team and our policies and hope these young men carry it out into the world.

      3. Too scary to even think positive for us (African cycling) is that now the playing field is level...finally.

      4. Sadly, again...true.

    2. Thanks for your response.

      1. Ok but does that not give him problems with training and racing during Ramadan? Did London 2012 not fall then?

      2. this issue (in Rwanda) really tries my reserves of stoicism and good humour.

      telling your (untrue) story and then sticking to it is common in my experience although (helpfully) not usually allied with an ability to answer questions consistently.

      I would like to see more leadership on this from on high. There is much talk of dignity and agaciru but there is no dignity in being lied to.

      I also encounter a lot of "back covering" where no one "tells" on anyone else even though a bad experience with one can discourage you from helping others. I am struggling to promote collective ownership of problems - such as the need for education.

      None of these things are unique to Rwanda of course and I guess it is just an ongoing battle and learning process that we have to stick with and of which you will have much more experience than me!

      3. Thanks had not thought of that.

      By the way as a "Rwandan" I am very proud of the efforts of Team Rwanda. Rwandans need (another beef) to appreciate their own sportsmen and women, particularly Olympians, much more.

      Finally, if this week is big for Team Rwanda with your cyclists in Gabon, I have just learned that later today the P6 and S3 results are published in Rwanda. Armed with the exam numbers I will go online later with fingers crossed. A big day for students, families, sponsors.

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