Sally Jenkins did two books with Lance Armstrong, chronicling his struggles and celebrating his triumphs. The Washington Post columnist hadn’t weighed in on revelations that the cyclist was less than honest about what he put in his body.
The headline of her column read: “Why I’m not angry at Lance Armstrong.”
I’ve searched high and low for my anger at Lance, and I can’t find it. It’s just not there. I checked — looked in every corner, and I’m empty of it. I’ve tried for weeks now to summon the moral certitude and outrage that others seem to demand, and I don’t have it, maybe because he’s my friend and co-author of “It’s Not About the Bike,” but also because my opinion of him was never based on what he did in a bike race in France 10 years ago. And while we’re on that subject, there is no question in my mind he was the hardest-working cyclist in the world, and for the life of me, I can’t find the competitive injustice in his seven Tour de France victories.
Maybe I’m not angry at Lance because I’ve decided that the smoldering wreckage of the bonfire that burned down Big Tex was wildly out of proportion to the offense. And because, much as I would have liked a personal or public confession from him, I suspect that he understood what the price of it would be, and found the stakes too high to call up his friend at The Washington Post and bring it all down on his head.
Maybe I’m not angry at him because after reading the USADA report and the affidavits of the riders who spoke with USADA, I have some common-sense questions that preclude anger. Such as: Shouldn’t an organization with the initials U.S. in front of it have to follow due process? And: According to the affidavits, the U.S. Postal Team had a highly organized “doping” system in place long before Lance became a member of it, so why is he the target of this report? Or: The affidavits taken by USADA make it clear that while Lance refused to use HGH, Floyd Landis introduced it to younger riders, so why is the federal government considering giving Landis whistle-blower protection?
This is the way it goes throughout the column. Perhaps it is admirable that Jenkins didn’t throw her friend under the bus. All relationships are different, and as much as you and I think we would be hurt if somebody lied to us, you never know how you’re going to react until it happens to you.
Jenkins, though, faced some tough criticism. As of 10:30 a.m. ET, there were nearly 500 comments on her post, a number that surely will grow throughout the day. As you would expect, the reaction was extreme, mostly against her.
Maybe you are not angry with Lance because you would have to be angry with yourself for having defended a cheating bully. Maybe you are not angry with Lance because like so many of his colleagues, your fame as a journalist came from drafting on his rear wheel. Maybe if you repeat you are not angry with Lance enough, people will forget the fawning columns you wrote trying to suppress the truth that would eventually emerge. Maybe you are not angry with Lance because you would have to acknowledge that now you have to write columns in his defense to avoid feeling like you made a damn fool of yourself.
However, there were a few that supported Jenkins.
Thank you for your column. I find your points very well taken, and agree with your comments about the great good Mr. Armstrong has done for people with his Lance Armstrong Foundation, as it was formerly known. I have received a great deal of useful information from livestrong.com. I am sure that Mr. Armstrong will appreciate your kind words, as I do. They brought tears to my eyes. That said, as someone who has taken steroids for medical issues, I believe that taking steroids is like making a deal with the devil. You cannot win. The side effects are myriad. Having experienced them, I would rather never do it again. But, I agree with you that it should be a personal choice.