George Vecsey over at the Times wrote a pretty good wrap-up, comparing L.A. to Pete Rose, Marion Jones, and the rest of the asterisked idols of our time. Vecsey underscores my biggest beef with Armstrong:
Of all the legion of the lost, Armstrong most compares to Rose, who had a swagger and a crude charm and made his sport come alive. I still like some of Pete, too, but he did his complicated image a terrible disservice by not cutting his losses early and admitting that he had gambled on his sport. His hits were enough, he felt, but he was dead wrong.
I don't fault Lance for doping nearly as much as I fault him for aiming that infamous accusatory stare at every person who ever dared question his sterling character, as if merely asking the doping question were a violation of his human rights.
To dope is human. Plenty of champions have done it. Doping is not right, it's as wrong as it gets, but I've been very clear in these pages that it is fiendishly hard to prevent, and its influence is as pervasive as the plague.A doper is not necessarily untalented, or unworthy of any admiration. I still love to watch Ben Johnson's astonishing 100 meter Olympic victory, years after the whump of disappointment about his cheating hit my stomach.
It's another thing altogether, however, to answer perfectly fair inquiries with vitriolic accusations and operatic claims to the higher ground. For all his posturing, Lance was as abusive of the public trust as any dirty politician. He used his fame and enormous power in the industry to manipulate coworkers (including friends) and cover up wrong-doing (see a very relevant example here). When it came back to bite him, he wrapped himself in his seven yellow jerseys, and then threw on the Anti-cancer Hero flag for good measure, knowing perfectly well all the while that -- to put it in terms a fifth-grade bully like him could understand -- he was lying.
That's for chumps. Plain and simple.
His Tour video clips will always be astounding. He will always be the guy who returned cycling in the U.S. to a lucrative and popular standing after years of irrelevance. And he will always be the greatest rider of his time. I hope that's enough; I hope that he doesn't need his integrity in order to sleep at night, because if so, he's going to be one tired dude.