What the book Wheelmen revealed


Back in January of 2013 the world was preparing to watch the 2 night Oprah Winfrey interview with Lance Armstrong. I was one of those people. I posted on Facebook that morning:  

The big news today seems to be the virtual lynching of Lance Armstrong. I lived in Austin and was there for many of his memorable wins. 
I own 2 Livestrong yellow bracelets and have bought dozens more.
Do I care if he doped to win the Tour de France? No, not really. It’s a bike race and no one was going to die if they didn’t win.
I feel sad that he felt the need to put himself under so much pressure that he had to break the rules. He knew this day was coming. It was just a matter of time. He is paying a high price. 
Lance Armstrong’s organization has raised more money and more awareness for cancer research than any individual effort in history. 
Put your anger in perspective and remember the millions of people that have benefited because he went renegade. So I will ask anyone reading this to think before they speak up because like Armstrong told us himself; it’s not about the bike and it’s not about the man either. 

What have you done today to help someone?

My Facebook message to my friends was met with mixed reviews. That was how it was only a few short months ago. You either loved Lance Armstrong, or you hated him. Some people were just plain obnoxious about it.

After I watched the first part of the interview, my feelings about Lance Armstrong changed too.

I remember watching our first Tour de France race in a bar in downtown Austin, TX. We had just moved there and were rooting for the hometown boy to win it for all of us. He didn’t disappoint! He crossed that finish line and took that Texas town some glory! We even bought the Tour de Lance yellow teeshirt.

Then he won it again the next year!

And again the year after that!

It was unbelievable! This guy was a machine! We had so much fun watching the Tour everyday just to see him blow past some of these cyclists like they were standing still. Lance Armstrong was unbeatable.

When the yellow bracelets first came out I remember going online and buying a 12 pack of them to send to all of my friends. I was so proud to be in Austin, TX and to be able to walk past the Livestrong offices, knowing that I lived in the same town as Lance Armstrong. He was more than a celebrity to me. He was some kind of special special specialness…I have no words for just how great I thought he was back then. No one could touch him as far as I was concerned.

My husband signed up for the Ride for the Roses every year. One of our good friends traveled to Texas for the ride from the Northeast and he and my husband rode side by side, just behind the bicycle god himself, Lance Armstrong. It was a fun ride with polka dot jerseys and as much Shiner Bock as you could drink, all for a great cause.

The year Lance won his seventh Tour de France, Austin, TX went crazy with glee. The town planned a huge street party to honor him. My husband and I danced the night away along with thousands of other townsfolk to the sounds of the Steve Miller band accompanied by Sheryl Crow. It was one of the best celebrations I have ever experienced and hearing Lance speak to the crowds that day was the cherry on top.

I was in a few heated discussions with people on the Internet when the doping issues first started being publicly talked about. I reiterated all of the details I knew from reading up on him, for instance, his rather large heart and his body’s insane ability to utilize his oxygen intake. Or how his body was redefined after his cancer treatments. Some folks would back down, but others tore him apart, piece by piece.

I couldn’t understand it.

My feelings about my hero, Lance Armstrong, came crashing down the night I watched the first installment of Oprah’s interview with him. I was shocked by his lack of remorse after confessing that everything the press had been saying about his doping, was true. I was shocked when I learned the details behind some of the attacks he had made on his own friends. The lawsuits and the threats he made were all too much for me to process.

Who was this person?

After reading Wheelmen, written by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell, I am even more disappointed. The book itself is rather droll and full of factual statistics and percentages. It was a hard read for me because it was kind of cold and impersonal. The human parts were blown by and details that could have made the story a bit easier to stomach weren’t included. The things I believed like gospel and preached to friends online about his physical shape were all dispelled in Wheelmen. He doesn’t have an unusually large heart and he weighs the same as he did before his cancer treatments. There is no mystery there.

What they did include about Lance, the person, was not complimentary. He was described as arrogant, self absorbed and selfish. It was all about him, all the time and no one else mattered to him. He hardly ever called his mother and left her out of huge chunks of his life at home. He browbeat his friends and cheated his teammates. He even cheated on his wife!

And he cheated me.

I’m not someone that has a lot of heroes or celebrities that I look up to and aspire to, but Lance was one.

What Wheelmen revealed to me is that without doping, I probably would have never even heard of Lance Armstrong.

And that makes me sad.

It’s easy to get angry and lamblast a celebrity when they reveal who they really are. But have you ever stopped to think that a large part of what keeps pushing them to stay on top are the standing ovations and heaps of praise we lavish on them?
When someone larger than life falls from grace, perhaps the ones that put them up so high could spare a little kindness that will allow them to pick up the pieces of their shattered life and make amends. Even the monsters will eventually pay for their sins.

Without grace, without kindness, no one wins.

About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in Artsy and Poetic and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What the book Wheelmen revealed

  1. This is so interesting to me as I simply felt disgust for him when the truth was revealed. As a cancer survivor myself, I was impressed by his LiveStrong and all the work he did to bring cancer to the forefront. I guess I am saddened by his choices and about his attitude ~ what a legacy to leave when he did so much good only to be such a fake in other ways. He cheated himself, he cheated his fans and he cheated his legacy. I have nothing to forgive, I just feel sadness for him that he just didn’t get it even when he could have done even more good in the world.


  2. I agree! This weekend we were cleaning out our garage and found posters we had collected when we lived in Austin, They were all about Lance and the Tour and at the time, I loved those posters. This weekend we reverently put them in the rubbish bin because what they stood for back then, no longer existed.It was like closing the chapter of a long overdue library book and knowing we might never be able to pay the fine.


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