My thoughts on Lance Armstrong

How many of you have ever had the feeling that you have been taken for a ride? How many of you have ever had a time/s in your life when you trusted without question something told to you by someone? How many of you trusted someone to the point that you eventually or quite suddenly came to the conclusion that you hardly knew anything of that person – it could be family, it could be someone you have known for a long time?

I have had a variety of careers, the RAF, the Police, and now as a Minister. All these cause you to have a range of approaches towards people. The first two mean that I have a tendency to be cautious towards people I meet for a while. You tend to think for a while before you welcome people vaguely into your life with trust. The third tends to encourage an open arms/welcome approach when meeting someone. If you have not been any of these, then I will let you consider your own approach.

Despite all of the above, there has been a couple of situations where I have been totally caught out, and it has been painful each time. They created an effect of inbalance, a severe questioning of my judgement in some people and situations. It took me a while to re-caliberate, and to regain confidence in decision making. All my careers have involved making decisions and judgement calls… sometimes very quickly.

To my wives annoyance (and some others) I can honestly say that my approach hasn’t been found wanting very often. It can be self-fulfilling, but I tend to be right about people.

Last night I watched the first instalment of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprey Winfrey, and I watched the second this morning after recording it. The Toure de France caught my imagination as a youngster. I loved to watch it on TV, and then go out on my bike around the streets of the large council estate trying to re-inact those riders on the TV. The race actually gave me one of my first non football heroes called Lance Armstrong.

Throughout the recent drug controversy, I tended to err on the side of Lance. Afetr hearing so much about people falling foul of surprise testing, I just couldn’t see how a single person could outwit the authorities in such a way. I thought that the people didn’t like the fact that he concentrated on the Toure specifically instead of doing the other classic races in Europe. I thought resentment rather than face drove and perpetuated the rumours etc. How could someone be so far ahead of the field I thought. I need to see some evidence from people other than previous offenders and other riders with possible grudges speaking against him.

Last night was a bit of a landmark moment for me. I realised that I, and many, many others had been taken in by Lance Armstrong. I watched the intrview in silence and with sadness. Throughout the day, various news programmes had all commented on it, all tended to be stirring up a hate campaign against him. Many of those news presenters spoke in what seemed to me as if he had committed murder.
I thought Lance showed himself to be someone a person unhealthily motivated to be a winner and the director of his own destiny in life and sport – for him, both were one and the same. Totally single.minded, totally driven by success and the desire to be a winner to the point where he was convinced that he was unbeatable in all aspects as he battled against authorities in the sport of cycling. People have suggested that very little he said could be trusted, that he had made a very calculated decision to take part in the interview. I have no doubt all of those things could be true, but I also think that he had now finally lost control of the narrative, and that his legs had at last been pulled from underneath him. I can’t imagine what it is like to be exposed in such a way when your children who worship him now find out the truth. I do believe that he has been humbled to the extreme, but I hope now that those very same people are able to see a person who does not react by digging his heels in and remaining behind a barbed-wire stance.

I hope that the public cometo the conclusion that he has affected people’s lives over time, but that he also can take part in walking the slow and painful journey of restitution. I hope people don’t prevent this by being filled with hate, and instead leave the door open to genuine repentance and transformation. People seem to hate him more than the people in the financial world who have wrecked families with their greed in far greater numbers and caused far more damage.

Yes, I feel that I have been conned, yes I feel that he has gained a massive financial reward whilst lying and cheating for so long. But I also feel that over a period of time, which may be very long, that this person who is a fighter in all that he has done in life, will be able to recover something of those redeeming qualities that many people feel he is incapeable of doing.

I hope so.

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