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 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.