How much will a guy like Lance Armstrong do to win at all costs? Sacrifice his balls? That’s the least of it, apparently. He's way ahead of the British cyclist Tommy Simpson, named Sports Personality of the Year by the BBC in 1965. Simpson's formula, "if it takes ten to kill you, take nine and win," did him in on July 13, 1967, during the Tour de France, when he'd taken amphetamines and brandy to keep going. Armstrong seems to be aiming for a slower, more tortuous demise, starting with a soon-to-be-unveiled crucifixion on TV in the form of an interview with Oprah Winfrey, here cast as Mary Magdalene.
No bargaining chip would give Armstrong pause. When I imagine him conversing with his lawyers and federal prosecutors, I can almost hear him asking if we’d take his right hand as a reward for forgetting all about the doping. He’d need his feet to keep biking, but he could get along without the hand. I can see him relishing the religious implications of the offer and wondering if the Bible belt would buy it.
Doping is nothing new. The ancient Greek athletes indulged in opium juice or "droop," from which come the word "dope." They tried wine, meat, animal hearts and animal testicles. The first Olympic athlete known to nearly die of doping--in this case a mix of brandy and strychnine--was Thomas Hicks, in 1904. Hitler is thought to have taken steroids, and German soldiers in the Second World War were given testosterone and its analogs to make them stronger and meaner. In 1989, soldiers attacking peaceful demonstrators in China's Tianamen Square were given stimulants to make them more aggressive. On August 26, 1960, a Danish cyclist, Knut Jensen, became the first Olympic athlete known to die of doping, on Aug. 26, 1960 at the Summer Olympics in Rome. He was taking an amphetamine called Ronicol.
The Armstrong story makes me remember Joseph Kennedy Sr. telling his children that coming in second was no good, and making it clear he'd lose interest in any child who was not committed to coming in first at all costs. John, Robert, and Ted tried to keep up with him, and I don't believe any of them led happy or fulfilled lives. What's the story with Armstrong? Where did he get his drive? Some soccer mom type on steroids, so to speak?