Who is to blame? The only role model you can trust – yourself.
Lance Armstrong – can we finally call him doping Lance officially? Do we finally dedicate the last double-spreads in the Sunday papers and move on, now that he has decided to give up a battle he could never win? I am not sure we can, neither can competitive cycling.
It was in January that I made the personal decision to swing my professional focus more into sport, after working many years in the arts and dedicating much of my life to it. The decision was well-thought through, as taking up sport had changed my personal life, and now the same was needed for my job. I was disillusioned by the lack of ambition in my professional capacity, but I still enjoyed what I was doing. If you would ask me any giving moment what I hated ambitiously I would give you a straight answer: “Marketing.” I hated it because I loved it so much, and couldn’t believe how half-hearted some people treated things I liked so much. It is exactly that feeling that made me want to continue what I was doing, and switching the focus slightly felt like the last hook in the wall I could grab not to fall. I grabbed it, and climbed up the wall ever since.
Working in marketing and PR, I don’t know how many times I have questioned what I am doing. At the same time I know it is much better having people with faith and a feel for responsibility in positions that have such power to manipulate others, and any of us working in PR know what power we have. Not all of us are liars, but if you continue to tell people you have undergone 500 tests, although the reality is a totally different one, they might believe it at some stage. You just need to be persistent. Armstrong and his PR troops did nothing else. And they did is successfully over many years. Critical voices? There were a few. Not too many. Sometimes the truth is just not sexy enough.
Now after all those years, has this damaged the reputation of cycling for me? No, it hasn’t at all. With getting a fair share of publicity myself, I always made it very clear that I love to cycle. Not to compete, not to raise money with cycling, not to do anything else other than enjoying the sport. I picked up cycling very late, and it gave me the direction I needed in my life. It gave me friends, it gave me stories. I had many friends in New Zealand that had exactly the same ambition, hence we fitted together well. I have the same here in the UK, and it always used to be like this in Germany. I still think big bunch rides with head down on a Thursday night are pointless. Possibly I can claim that I inspired some people with cycling rather long distances. That’s all. I love cycling, and not because some yellow clad hero inspired me too, but as I experienced all the good of the sport myself. The more I cycled, the more I loved it, and I wish that this never ends.
The scary bit about the whole Armstrong saga is possibly not the fact that he doped, as everybody else did. The scary bit is how it was accepted by many people, with donations to his foundation going up sharply on the day he announced to end his personal fight against the USADA. Will this promote doping to even more audiences? Is this a chain reaction to making even more sportsmen dope? It’s hoped not; whilst many sportsmen are caught through drug tests, like the ones supplied by Countrywide Testing, and banned from sports, it seems Armstrong’s publicity has made him exempt. It’s scary how well the whole PR machinery worked up to the very last minute. I hope those people use their chance to forever ban the fallen hero from their lives and pick up themselves. Be a role model themselves, on whatever small scale possible. The more of them do, the less they are prone to the ridiculous efforts of too many people that don’t deliver their jobs with the responsibility needed. It might give some people inspiration, but it’s for yourself to deliver.