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Divisive legend: Lance Armstrong

Posted on 7 July 2009 | 10:07am

There are few more divisive sportsmen than Lance Armstrong.

To some (many of them French, who would rather one of their own had dominated the Tour de France) he is a cheat who could not have achieved what he has without doping.

To others he is a hero, not just because of his remarkable sporting exploits, but because he also defeated cancer. And as for the doping charges, he is the most drug tested athlete on the planet.

His books are bestsellers because while his cycling skills have inspired sports fans, his battle with cancer has inspired millions of others.

I was lucky enough to meet Lance Armstrong a few years ago when doing a series on great sportsmen and women for The Times. I had been warned he could be very prickly and difficult to talk to, but I found him open, funny, and engaging. Yes he was driven and mega-focussed too, but he wasn’t just that.

He came up with what I consider to be the best single quote from any of the many interviews I did when he said of the difference between his fight to win more Tours de France and his fight to live…  ‘dying and losing, they’re the same thing.’

I later interviewed him for TV and as he was on good form in the Tour de France yesterday, today seems as good a day as any to put the film up here, and here.

I was as surprised as anyone when he announced he would be riding again in this year’s Tour. I believe him when he says it is mainly about promoting his Livestrong charity and the need to keep raising funds and awareness to keep up the fight against cancer.

It would be something of a miracle if he were to add to his seven Tour wins. But he is still adding to the legend.

  • oldrightie

    Strewth, something, from a man I see as one of the architects of our beloved country’s downfall, that I can relate to. I once acted as a go-between translator for Tommy Simpson and a German reporter, in Munster, during a 24 hour track event. Despite Simpson’s fall from grace he was also a giant of a character and I always found it sad his death did not become a catalyst for the ending of drug abuse in cycling. In many ways I find a lot of similarity in the two men. Driven but compassionate. Heroes to most decent minded folk and not socialists!

  • gary Enefer

    I have read Lance Armstrong’s excellent book’s including – ”It’s not about the Bike” and ”Livestrong.”

    I bought a Trek Bike last year which I enjoy very much and just bought a Nike Yoga Mat – . Before anyone poo, poos Nike, Mr Armstrong mentioned in his book that they were the only sponsors that stood by him and offered to help when he was diagnosed.

    Best wishes


  • Young leftie

    Someone tell ‘old rightie’ that Armstrong is a long-standing Democrats’ supporter. Because he is Texan, and occasionally saw Bush, the right like to pretend he is one of theirs. He ain’t. Sad that ‘old rightie’ feels he has to make a political point out of anything on here

  • Graham Boyd

    Thanks for putting the interview on the vlog. I never saw this when it came out. Great insight into him, and his manic drive which makes him a great athlete and which clearly shaped his approach to defeating cancer. Am looking forward to seeing the rest of the interview. And I may even take a look at the Tour today – team time trial

  • Jane A

    The facts of his fundraising and returning to top flight sport after cancer are what make him a rolemodel for so many. The doping stuff seems so prevalent in this particular sport that it strikes me that the damage has been done to cycling and the Tour rather than just LA.

  • Marion

    AC I don’t always agree with you – but today you are spot on: Lance is a LEGEND. A God on the bike and an inspiration in life. Doping rumours are by the not-good-enoughs who can’t compete with him. Thanks for putting interview on the vlog.

  • gary Enefer

    Ac has mentioned on Twitter he is unable to provide a blog today due to signal problems.

    We look forward to having you back tomorrow Alastair.

  • Seats

    You’re looking a bit silly now, eh Alistair?