Jennifer Floyd Engel, a sports columnist for my hometown paper and former employer, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, did a nice job today in expressing the conflicting emotions of those who still want to believe that Lance Armstrong isn’t a fraud.
The Texas bicyclist who won a record seven Tour de France races is now the focus of a U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration investigation of doping in professional cycling, and several former teammates have alleged that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his career.
The latest was Tyler Hamilton who made his allegations during a Sunday broadcast of 60 Minutes on CBS.
The network said former teammate George Hincapie provided similar testimony to the feds.
“I believed in Lance Armstrong,” Jennifer wrote.
“And typing that d feels treacherous, so much so I rolled my finger on my backspace key again and again in indecision because to add the d is to make believe past tense and I still want to believe Armstrong.
“What Armstrong accomplished was not simply about amazing athletic achievement, which winning seven Tour de France titles certainly qualifies as. What he did was make crazy hope cool. The yellow jersey provided inspiration for everybody fighting cancer and everybody who may one day lock horns with this insidious disease. This was proof that doctors are not always right, that not everybody they say is going to die does and those who do win can come back stronger and better.”
I, too, still want to believe. But it has become increasingly difficult. Jennifer’s column reflected my own feelings on Armstrong, expressed in a blog post on Feb. 16, the day he announced his retirement from professional bicycle racing.
“Is he one of the most remarkable athletes who ever lived — one who first defeated testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs and then went on to ‘own’ perhaps the world’s most grueling sporting event for seven straight years?” I asked then. “Or is he a fraud whose extraordinary powers were enhanced by some substance injected by a needle? Say it ain’t so, Lance!
“Armstrong’s comeback from a devastating disease to achieve dominance in one of the world’s toughest athletic endeavors is a story that has transcended sports and tugged at the emotions of us all,” I wrote. “It would be very sad, indeed, if one day he emerges from a Los Angeles courthouse after being indicted and is confronted by a youthful admirer who says: ‘Say it ain’t so, Lance.'”
Jennifer also wrote that she’s not yet ready to say that she has given up her belief in Armstrong.
“Although I have a bad feeling Hincapie or the grand jury or somebody else will do that for me soon enough, and I will be the last idiot to finally say out loud what most everybody else has been screaming,” she wrote.
“Until then, though, I want to believe Armstrong because I want to believe not everybody they say is going to die does and a few even come back to Livestrong.”