Lance the Liar

Bob
Bob Wakeham
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About nine years ago, a former colleague of mine mailed me a copy of Lance Armstrong’s autobiography centring on the famous bicyclist’s fight against cancer.

And it was no coincidence that I received the book when I was engaged in my own battle of a lifetime, facing deadly skirmishes with a formidable enemy that had infiltrated my colon and spread to my liver, distributing its poison in a battle that appeared to have been lost when doctors said my condition was terminal, that my life-switch was going to be turned off in the very near future, that nothingness awaited.   

Conventional wisdom would say, I guess, that people in my state would have read just about any piece of literature that had the potential to ameliorate a patently justified fear that the graveyard 50 yards up the road was to be the “dust to dust, ashes to ashes” place of “rest” in a short while.

You’d think I would have been so desperate that if I had been told that reading the Koran would have given me peace of mind, I would have immediately placed an XL turban on my oversized head and read with a vengeance anything Muhammad had to say about life and death.

But, no, the Koran wasn’t on my agenda, nor was the Bible, nor any other kind of religious or evangelical literature. I wasn’t even tempted, during my lowest points, to resurrect some of the garbage buried deep in my skull from my days as a brainwashed Catholic youngster.                                          

With the grim reaper on the doorstep, I’m sure there were friends and loved ones who couldn’t believe I wasn’t prepared to hand myself over to the Lord, or some other form of higher power, and cover all my tracks as my body began to call it quits.

These were many of the same people who would probably insist, as that old cliché goes, that there are no atheists or agnostics in a foxhole, that when desperate enough, everyone reaches out for a god.

Well, I was in the foxhole, bombarded by tumours, facing an unambiguous forecast of eminent death, but I refused to play the hypocrite and conveniently alter my disbelief in the hereafter and a spiritual being (including the big guy with the beard who knew the thoughts of every single person, the billions and billions, whoever set foot on the Earth).  

But, as I implied before getting on this rant against those who believe you should believe what they believe or you are damned, it was only Lance the Liar’s book I wound up reading back then (other than the odd escapist novel).  

And you know something? It left me feeling as cold as ice.  

Sure, I was delighted to know that an individual had survived the sort of dramatic and normally fatal metastases that had occurred in my system, and that there were extraordinary examples of often inexplicable cures, that if someone with Armstrong’s history could survive, then maybe, just maybe, I could as well.  

But, other than that, Armstrong came across as shallow and phoney and incredibly arrogant, and did nothing for me (despite my emotional vulnerability at that time).

He was anything but inspiring, largely because he was a complete pig, a megalomaniac who treated colleagues, friends and loved ones like crap.

Nothing in the world mattered more to Lance than Lance.    

Sure, Armstrong started an international movement to fight cancer, raised millions of dollars and convinced everyone from U.S. presidents to movie stars and jocks to wear a yellow band around their wrists (the pretentious “in” thing for a while). And I’m sure Livestrong did some good in the world.  

But I doubt, given his monstrous ego, that Livestrong was a result of a profound, altruistic calling on Armstrong’s part to play a prominent role in the fight against cancer; rather, it was another example of self-aggrandizement, another way for Lance the Liar to say, “Look at me, aren’t I just the grandest person on the face on the Earth?”

And he certainly picked an appropriate person last week for his “tell all.” Armstrong made his confession, as all know by now, to the High Priestess of tabloid television, Oprah Winfrey, no slouch herself in the area of immodesty, smothered in self-centredness.

Winfrey cannot perform a good work anywhere in the universe without a camera crew trailing along, documenting her every example of philanthropy and sharing the video with any soul with access to a television set.

So, to say the least, I watched those two interviews last week, or at least until my stomach became decidedly weak, with a heavy sense of cynicism.

I never considered Armstrong a hero, even before the whispers about doping began.

You don’t become a hero because you’re a jock who’s survived cancer.

Handing cancer its walking papers, having it leave your system, hopefully for good (the state of health in which I am) is, more often than not, a matter of pure luck, as an oncologist once told me.   

There are real heroes in this battle with cancer, though: the best examples are the women who testified at the inquiry into the botched breast cancer tests in Newfoundland.

They were true, bonafide heroes.   

But Lance Armstrong?

He was, and is, a jerk, a bum.

And has now shown himself to be a pathological liar and a cheat as well.

That book that was sent my way is now buried somewhere in Robin Hood Bay.

Right where it belongs.         

         

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Geographic location: U.S., Newfoundland and Labrador, Robin Hood Bay

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  • Don II
    January 28, 2013 - 09:35

    I blame the media for insulating Lance Armstrong from probative scrutiny. He should have been exposed as a fraud long ago. Was his cancer diagnosis really what he said it was? How did he accomplish 7 wins at the Tour de France? Did anybody care to check? The media gave Armstrong a Hail Mary pass. They believed every thing that came out of his mouth and promoted him as an international hero! If Armstrong had said that he was the second son of God, the media would have published, printed or put that blasphemy on the TV and Internet as the Gospel truth, no questions asked. Only a few ethical, tenacious and persistent people questioned Armstrong's story, despite being threatened with lawsuits and the scorn of the majority of the public, it took years of investigation but they were proven to be right. The media once had a critical and jaundiced eye when it came to people who appeared to be to good to be true and usually exposed them as the frauds that they were. Not so anymore! Any crackpot or con artist can pull the wool over the media eyes without having to work at it. Politicians and con artists play the media like a violin an get away with it. What are they teaching journalists and media types in Journalism and Broadcast Schools these days? A trained monkey can type up a story that he/she snatches off the AP News wire or from the Internet. It appears that taking the time to check sources, check claims for veracity, paying attention and asking probative questions by the media has gone the way of the Dodo! That is why people like Lance Armstrong, and there are many more like him in the public domain, who are zeros being portrayed and promoted as heroes. Make no mistake, the slick promotion of fiction as fact goes on here in Newfoundland and Labrador with the media promoting it all the way. Wake up media and do your job. With all due respect to Bob Wakeham who knows a con artist when he sees one, where are the likes of Cronkite, Woodward, Bernstein and Knowlton Nash in today's media when you need them?

  • Ken O'Brien
    January 28, 2013 - 08:51

    Mr. Wakeham, you sure don't pull your punches here. I'm glad that you made it through the cancer journey and are still with us; life is so short. I'm glad that Mr. Armstrong made it through his cancer journey as well, and hopefully the Livestrong Foundation has been a boon to people who have cancer. I never followed his career, or the sport of cycling, that much. It's now clear that he cheated, and cheating should be punished. So other cyclists were doping? Then they need to be exposed, too. So long as cheating is an accepted part of sport, then sport will not lift us up and move us to better ourselves. It will remain a grubby pursuit in which winning is all and cheaters can prosper. That's not the type of sport that I support. Sport is meant to encourage people to strive to be the best that they can be.

  • starr
    January 27, 2013 - 08:22

    Wow! Bob Wakeham. Sure sounds like you have monstrous ego yourself. Lance is no sunday school boy but you sure love your criticism and a good dose of it. And for someone who's cancer has exited his body and is currently in good health - not a word or hint of thankfulness. But your journalistic skill and way with words did keep me reading, which is the goal of any writer. Twisting, turning and carefully crafting, though not as skillful as you could be given the nature of what your were saying - revelling in the dark side. Maybe next time you can write something noble, uplifting and encouraging. Share a little good news. Balance things out a bit. And I do hope that you have an encounter with the God of the universe, the Creator of it and us who decides that today you can continue breathing or not. He created you for communion with Him. I hope you get to enjoy that privilege both here and in the hereafter.

  • Josh
    January 26, 2013 - 22:14

    "He was, and is, a jerk, a bum." I think that's a good description of yourself Mr Bob Wakeham. Really original article here, kicking a man when he's already down is very admiral isn't it? Attacking the man for his Livestrong foundation is laughable. Even if he did start the foundation for tax breaks and self promotion he still contributed to the cancer cause via this foundation, which raised millions of dollars. Are you trying to tell us that someone has to be fully and completely altruistic to chair a good cause? That they cannot benefit from it in any way for it to be considered a good deed? Face it, in life, every encounter is a business transaction. People don't do nice things for nothing. Even if it's just to make them feel good inside, they are at least getting that out of the encounter, so why shouldn't a guy who chairs a foundation donating millions of dollars to cancer get a little positive press time, etc? Also I'm not sure what the fascination is with crying about Lance Armstrong being a liar and cheat. Seems very popular these days, everyone loves to jump on the bandwagon to hate on Lance Armstrong. The fact of the matter is basically anyone at a competitive level in sports is "on" something, especially blood doping in cycling, lol. I find it quite pathetic that everyone is so shocked that he used EPO and a little Test same as everyone else. There is no real advantage if everyone else is doing the same thing, which they are. Even at the sub-elite levels it is rampant. You just don't take PED's and automatically turn into a champion anyway, lol. All of you fat lazy people would love to think the opposite though. "O look at that guy, he's on the juice, I could be like him if I took it too." Sure keep dreaming. No one that rattles on with this kind of dribble would though, b/c they're afraid of failure. Lance did what needed to be done to win. And who cares if he lied? Anyone in his position would have to avoid a ban from competition. Lance did what needed to be done in order to win. Why shouldn't he lie, majority of other elite cyclists were as well. And don't bother counter arguing the old if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it to? lol. Arguing that someone ought to be as moral as the pope is a ridiculous sentiment. Nice guys don't win at life, b/c nice guys don't have a winning attitude, they're to soft to take the bull by the horns and do what needs to be done, whether that be in sports, their career or with women. Lance has unfortunately just a target since his success in order to make an example out of someone. In the end this guy is a winner. He beat cancer and won multiple titles in cycling, dominating the sport and making it popular in North America. He also became rich in the process and chaired a foundation responsible for raising millions of dollars for cancer. All the negative press and comments are just jealousy.