The news, reported by the New York Times, that Lance Armstrong is preparing to confess his sins reminds me of this passage from the Book of Daniel:
Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.
Remember, however, that golden-sunned afternoon in Paris in the summer of 2005. On the Champs-Elysees Lance Armstrong, the undisputed titan of his era, stands atop a podium to deliver a message to the masses thronged before him:
“I’ll say to the people who don’t believe, the cynics and the sceptics, I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles.”
Miracles! Flanked by his vanquished rivals Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, Armstrong continues:
“This is one hell of a race. This is a great sporting event and you should stand around and believe it. You should believe in these athletes, and you should believe in these people. I’ll be a fan of the Tour de France for as long as I live. And there are no secrets – this is a hard sporting event and hard work wins it. Vive Le Tour.”
Out of the mouths of champions, thou hast perfected cynicism. In 2007 Basso was suspended from cycling for two years on account of doping and, even though never caught, Ullrich is generally considered to have been a doper too. Some of us never believed in the guy who beat them either.
I suppose, in my more charitably-minded moments, I don’t really blame those who wanted to believe. It was a hell of a story. Albeit one told by perhaps the greatest cheat in the history of professional sport.