Among my emails Wednesday morning, out of the blue, was one from Lance Armstrong.
Riles, I'm sorry.
All I can say for now but also the most heartfelt thing too. Two very important words.
And my first thought was ... "Two words? That's it?"
Two words? For 14 years of defending a man? And in the end, being made to look like a chump?
Wrote it, said it, tweeted it: "He's clean." Put it in columns, said it on radio, said it on TV. Staked my reputation on it.
"Never failed a drug test," I'd always point out. "Most tested athlete in the world. Tested maybe 500 times. Never flunked one."
Why? Because Armstrong always told me he was clean.
On the record. Off the record. Every kind of record. In Colorado. In Texas. In France. On team buses. In cars. On cell phones.
During MASSAGES, even. Shared massages! Reilly, incidentally, HOUNDED Barry Bonds (correctly) about his PED usage, while believing Lance. That being said, a lot of people believed him, which is sad, and he's absolutely still the greatest cyclist in the history of the sport, and everyone in cycling dopes, you have to dope to compete, but maybe be the change or whatever or not, and he was the worst kind of ridiculous asshole in the cause of backing up his deceptions. Calling women (who were telling the truth) crazy bitches, for a start. Crazy, bitch prostitutes.
If you've followed cycling, even a little bit, you have watched this guy just freaking double-down, over and over and over again, until he ran out of chips. And it was probably pretty lonely for him, having to lie to a "friend" during massages, but it was a lot lonelier for the members of the peloton and the wives and the girlfriends and the sponsors and the press he ostracized and threatened and filed suits against and belittled.
I don't really care about consensual blood doping in cycling, honestly, versus, say, the East German athletes who were used like steroid pincushions by their government. I wouldn't have a problem with an all-dope Tour de France. It might be intellectually interesting to know how quickly someone can make the Tourmalet climb under careful medical supervision. There is not going to be a clean Tour de France. The richest teams will always be ahead of our ability to test them, which is why no cyclists ever support retroactive testing of their own older samples.
All of which is just to say that athletes are not heroes, really, and it's a mug's game to imbue physical ability with more meaning than it deserves. But this guy? This guy has acted like a real schmuck, and if you watched him on Oprah, I don't think he's ever lost a night's sleep over it (it's bad for your training regimen.)