Lance Armstrong’s Purgatory

For some people, being stripped of his palmarès and sponsors is not enough, Lance Armstrong should be destitute and living under a bridge in Plano, the unforgiving Texan town that produced him. By all accounts, however, he is living quite well, the disposal of his private jet notwithstanding. However, whenever he sticks his head over the parapet, someone is waiting to kick it right off. He is apparently precluded from having an opinion on just about everything, or indeed making use of any social media whatsoever.

The fact that he is enjoying his retirement is too much for the anti-Lance protagonists, who go after him with an enthusiasm that approximates monomania. Ask one of these types why their invective isn’t equally distributed among the other cheats, many of whom are making great living within the sport, and you’ll get some woolly argument that effectively boils down to the assertion that there are somehow good dopers and bad dopers.

In the grand old tradition of apotropaic magic, Lance Armstrong is a sin-eater — he ingests all the terrible transgressions of cycling’s most shameful era, and ushers in absolution for the sport and all that remain in it. We can pin any old sin on him and, like the troll under the bridge, we know both where dark beast of the sport lies and how to avoid him. Conveniently, he has been banned for life — there is no shot at redemption — and cycling’s absolved will have the ashes of his reputation to piss on when he dies.

I somehow get the feeling that he doesn’t care, and perhaps this is both the best revenge and the only way forward for Armstrong. Luckily for him, the USA has a grand old tradition of redemption for their most public sinners. Indeed, only this year a certain Barry Bonds was named as the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins.