So Lance Armstrong has followed in the footsteps of Michael Jordan and starred in a reality documentary for ESPN.
Well I know one person who won’t be watching. Me.
I’ve seen and heard everything I ever want to about Lance Armstrong.
He’s just a cheat, a liar and a bully.
Yeah, yeah, I know. You can tell me all you like that he’s raised millions of dollars for his cancer charity and that what he did wasn’t any different from what other road cyclists were doing and probably still are, but I don’t care.
The bloke’s a fraud who conned millions of people around the world – and I was one of them.
Lance Armstrong during an interview for his Last Dance-style documentary with ESPN. Sports writer and former fan Mike Colman said he and many others will not be watching the drug cheat’s new show
Just like everyone else I read his book, ‘It’s Not About The Bike’. I was totally sucked in by his incredible story. I marvelled at his toughness as an athlete and a cancer survivor. I admired him as a person: a man who refused to be beaten in sport or in life.
A true champion and inspiration.
When the 30 year-old son of a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer I dropped around to his house with a copy of Armstrong’s book.
‘I don’t know if you’ve heard of this,’ I said handing it to him.
‘I’ll add it to the pile,’ he said. ‘This would be about copy number 20.’
That’s how it was with Armstrong. If someone was doing it tough you’d hold him up as the ultimate role model: the guy who took on the toughest opponent there is and won – and then climbed back on his bike and proved himself the greatest of all time in his sport as well.
And the best of all, he did it clean. Or so he said.
How many times was he asked about rumours of doping, and how many times did he deny them?
‘I’ve been tested more than anyone,’ he said again and again. ‘And I’ve never failed once.’
And stupid us, we believed him. Oh sure, we all had our doubts, but we pushed them aside. People wanted Armstrong to be everything he said he was and I was as big a sucker as anyone.
Armstrong celebrates winning stage 17 of the Tour de France on July 22, 2004. Many people marvelled the cyclist at the time as he was a tough athlete and cancer survivor
Armstrong’s best selling book It’s Not About the Bike. Colman gifted the autobiography to his cancer-stricken friend to inspire him as he battled the disease
Before the Sydney Olympics, in which he would be competing in the road race, I wrote an article that began, ‘The toughest man in world sport wears lycra’, followed by 600 words of sycophantic drool.
When he held his media conference at the Games I made sure I got there early to get a seat. I asked him how he felt to be representing cancer sufferers every time he went into a race.
‘It’s not like I wake up every morning and think about it,’ he said. ‘But if being the best I can be helps someone else, then that’s fine by me.’
How could you not love someone like that?
Well, if you were Irish journalist David Walsh, by refusing to be fooled by all the hype or intimidated by the pressure applied by Armstrong and his entourage of yes-men, enablers and lawyers.
Walsh pursued the truth and was ultimately vindicated, but for years he found himself fighting not only against Team Armstrong but also the wider community that preferred fantasy to facts.
I would never put myself in Walsh’s class but back in January 2011 I had a small taste of what he had endured on a massive scale.
Armstrong and Anna Hansen attend the Babes for Boobs live auction in 2018. Armstrong has raised millions of dollars for cancer research over the year
Armstrong, Robbie McEwen and Allan Davis at a Brisbane charity ride in 2011. Colman exclusively interviewed Armstrong after the fundraiser
It was after Brisbane had been devastated by floods and, at the behest of Australian cyclist Robbie McEwen, Armstrong had agreed to stop in on his way to New Zealand and lead a charity ride through the city streets.
It was a huge event, with thousands of people from kids, mums and dads, Olympians, celebrities and the Queensland premier showing up to follow the great man on a 25km loop from the RAS Showground and back.
Armstrong had agreed to do two brief interviews – one print, one TV – immediately following the ride, after which he would wave to the adoring crowd from a stage and say a few words before heading to the airport.
I have to say my opinion of Armstrong had changed in the eleven years since I had questioned him at the Sydney Olympics. The noose was starting to tighten. Former team-mates and employees had begun to talk to Walsh about his doping and Sports Illustrated had just published a major expose.
I had been assigned to do the print interview with him after the ride. As I left the office my editor told me, ‘Make sure you ask him about the drug stories.’
The interviews were set up inside one of the exhibition halls, as the crowd built up around the stage outside.
The TV reporter kindly let me go first, which I’m sure he regrets to this day because when I broached the subject of the doping allegations Armstrong gave me a look that could have frozen molten lava, spat out some choice words in my direction and stormed off.
Armstrong is interviewed by reporters in Milan in 2009. Colman asked the cyclist about doping allegations in a 2011 interview, prompting Armstrong to get angry and storm off
Armstrong preparing for a race in Sacramento in 2009. The cyclist promises to tell ‘his truth’ about the doping saga in his upcoming ESPN documentary Lance
He climbed into a waiting car and headed straight to the airport, leaving the TV reporter standing there open-mouthed with his microphone in his hand, and 5000 people outside chanting, ‘We want Lance, we want Lance’.
When the news was broken to them that Armstrong had departed – and word filtered out that a newspaper reporter was the reason – the chant changed to ‘We want blood, we want blood’.
I beat a hasty retreat back to the office, but not before Robbie McEwen and the event sponsor gave me an absolute gobfull.
I’ve often wondered since if those two – and the dozens who sent me abusive emails in the days following – ever had second thoughts when Armstrong finally fessed up to the fact that he was arguably the biggest cheat in sporting history.
Probably not, and there’s no doubt plenty will tune in to Armstrong’s TV show to hear him tell his grubby story without a hint of remorse for the umpteenth time.
Not me. I’d rather watch a rerun of Liar, Liar.
Armstrong finally admitted to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey (right) in 2013