Writing about Lance Armstrong's doping scandal while the Australian Open radio stream is playing in my ear is particularly ironic.
It was a warm winter day in sunny Palo Alto 5 years ago that I first began watching tennis. The match: Djokovic vs Federer; the tournament: why, the Australian Open. I watched that semifinal with a close friend who is a die hard Federer fan and, to be contrary, I rooted for Djokovic, the underdog (Fed was defending champion that year). He went on to win the tournament, and so began my love affair with Novak Djokovic.
Over the years I've followed his career, from the joker famous for his tennis impersonations, endless pre-service ball bouncing and the sudden onset foot-knee-groin injury if he was losing, to the fierce competitor he is today. You just had to watch that recent match against Wawrinka to see how far he'd come. But why am I waxing lyrical about Djokovic in an Armstrong post? Because he, together with Nadal and Federer, made me fall in love with sport again.
|well, why not? via|
Watching the three of them battle it out for the top seed has been amazing for tennis and tennis fans. You had Fed of the effortless class ruling the roost, and then Nadal of the ferocious energy challenging him and just when you thought it could not get any better, along came Djokovic of the dogged determination to claim #1... only to lose it again in 2012 to Federer, who everyone thought was nearing the end of his career. You see where I'm going with this? Amazing stuff. These are the times you reserve the word 'epic' for.
If you watched 2008's Wimbledon final, Nadal vs. Fed, at 4 hours and 48 minutes or last year's Aus Open, Djo vs Nadal, at 5 hours and 53 minutes the longest match in the history of the Open Grand Slams.. non-stop speed, agility, strength, strategy and will power, all packaged as the finest example of what the human body can do, then you understand why Lance Armstrong is the worst.
I've never been a fan of cycling nor have I followed Armstrong's career but even I know what 7 Tour de France victories mean. His battle with cancer not withstanding, what a great feat of human endurance... or so we thought. To be a fan of his right now must feel horrible. To watch a person's career over the years, to see him fight and grow and improve and triumph, just to find out it was all a lie.. well, I think about how I would feel if I found out, God forbid, Djokovic used performance enhancing drugs. Gutted. And to watch Armstrong's interview with Oprah, she of the opportunistic grandstanding and falsely empathetic voice, to hear his unapologetic, rehearsed responses is chilling. Lance Armstrong isn't sorry he cheated; he's sorry he got caught.
Sport is a celebration of the human body and spirit. That there are athletes who continue to push the boundaries of their physical limits, who continue to excel within the defined margins of any given sport, who continuously raise the bar for the athletes after them is something to rejoice. That professional sport is now more focused on wins and prize money and endorsements is a shame. Lance Armstrong isn't the first or last athlete to cheat his way to the top, but he is arguably the most high profile, and that in his interview he talks about it being humanly impossible to win without doping is the worst thing I've ever heard. The example he has set for the sportsmen and women to come after him, that winning is the most important thing, no matter the cost, may be the biggest mark he leaves behind. As legacies go, Lance Armstrong, you're the worst.
|Banksy takes on Armstrong, via.|