The Armstrong Question
I’ve learned a few things since being involved in social media.
1. Don’t post anything while hungry.
2. Don’t post anything after a couple of alcoholic beverages.
The reason for these two simple lessons is that the posted comment is often made when your frontal lobe, or whatever part of your brain that makes mature decisions, isn’t working at full capacity. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve violated both the aforementioned points in the past. Maybe that’s why Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s Mark Cavendish was so peeved at a journalist’s question at the team presentation.
A journalist had the nerve to ask the Manx Missile a question regarding Lance Armstrong’s recent doping admission. With the aggression he usually reserves for the last 200 meters of a race, Cav unleashed on the journo telling him he wasn’t going to answer that question and then cried out for a team media liaison to remove the offending reporter. The nerve of that guy to ask a professional cyclist to comment on something that is the biggest story in modern sports! Take it from me, that kind of attitude will not get you that free Omega Pharma-QuickStep swag bag you were promised!
I suspect the real root of Cavendish’s anger was a case of low blood sugar making the sprinter quick to anger. As we all know Cavendish, like most sprinters, is calm and collected. However, sources tell me that after the team presentation those greedy journalists hoovered-up all the free grub leaving only scraps for the athletes! With nothing to eat, Cav was plopped in front of a group of well-fed journalists but whose hunger for quotes can never be satiated.
Seriously, I can see how Cavendish might be a little gun shy when it comes to the Armstrong question. He’s from a different generation of cycling (I’m not saying any better, just not one where rampant doping ruled the sport) and every time he picks up a newspaper “doping” and “cycling” are usually in the same sentence. Regardless, he doesn’t make things look any better when he has a hissy fit in front of the cameras.
Frankly it makes him look like a spoiled child lashing out because the questions aren’t going his way. My advice for Cav is to put on his big-boy undies and suck it up. The closer we get to the Tour de France, the more the Armstrong question is going to be asked. Be an adult and calmly repeat the Omega Pharma-QuickStep company line regarding this scandal and ask for the next question. The more often you spaz, the more often that question will be asked.
Speaking of dealing with journalists it seems like Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins has had a sit down with upper-management on how to answer the “Armstrong question.” Just to refresh everyone’s memory, Wiggo had nothing but pleasant memories of racing against the Texan in the Tour de France. According to Team Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters, Armstrong and Wiggins were BFFs in the 2009 Tour. I heard that Lance passed Wiggins a note on the rest day asking, “Do you want to break-up with Vaughters? Circle ‘yes’ or ’no’”. Oh the drama! Why no one in Hollywood has optioned a reality show following the peloton I’ll never know...
But after several months of continuing to be on the fence regarding Armstrong, the 2012 Tour de France champion and Olympic gold medalist said this about the now discredited rider’s form during the 2009 Tour de France, “It wasn’t the same bike rider. You only have to watch the videos of how the guy was riding. I don’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth anymore.”
Wow Bradley that’s a strong statement to make! The disappointment is that it took months for you to say it and you only said it when it was completely safe to do so. Back in October Wiggo is quoted on RT.com as saying he was shocked at the amount of evidence produced by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Fast forward to January and he’s stating you could see Big Tex was a doper by watching videos of his 2009 Tour.
That’s the rub I have against Wiggins. He’s an amazing athlete with a cycling pedigree and resume anyone would die for. He’s an enigma - on one hand he says he wants nothing to do with publicity and then shoots a music video or gets on stage to jam on guitar. Plus, he’s not afraid to get sloppy drunk and allow photographers to document it. But up until recently it was: Don’t dare ask him about Armstrong and no taking questions from bone-idle wankers in the pressroom.
Whether they want to admit it or not riders like Cavendish and Wiggins need to address the Armstrong scandal so we can move past it. Until that is done and the marquee riders discuss it, these questions will linger like the stink from a dead fish. This has to be done only once and then it’s answered. One presser where those annoying questions can be answered and then that’s it. Done. From that point on if an annoying journalist dares to raise that topic again a quick, “I’ve already answered that” is all that’s needed.
To a certain point it isn’t fair that the burden of being spokesmen lies on them. They just happen to be very good at a sport; it doesn’t mean they have the ability to articulate a meaningful dialogue. However, for better or worse, we put these people on a pedestal thinking and expecting they have all the answers. If anything the Armstrong scandal should teach us to look closer to home of who we call true heroes.
A video made the rounds on the internet the other week. It’s the story of two brothers: Conner age 9 and Cayden Long age 6. Cayden has cerebral palsy. Conner competes in triathlons with his younger brother in tow behind him. The video is amazing and their courage was awarded with a “Sports kids of the Year” by Sports Illustrated. Kids like these are heroes and riders need to check their attitude at the door. This huge sporting disaster that cycling finds itself in is something that was kept quiet for far too long. Only now has it become acceptable for professional riders to discuss doping out loud and say it’s wrong. So don’t complain now that it’s biting you in the butt.
My last bit of unasked advice to any pros who whine about having to answer the Armstrong question is to remember where you might be without this sport. Think about people like Conner and Cayden, who may not have a freakishly high VO2, but regardless are more of a hero than a rider who kept his mouth closed in order to maintain status quo and only opened it when it was safe to do so.