You almost wished it wasn’t true. You read it, heard it on the news, and you were hoping that it was lies. Someone who had come through the toughest of adversity, back from the brink of death to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles, and inspired millions of people to keep the faith and “livestrong” through the yellow bands that everyone, me included, wore to raise cancer awareness. And all this time he had been abusing the system, cheating himself, his team, his fellow competitors, but most of all those who had stayed most loyal to him throughout, by being part of what has been described by the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) as “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program the sport has ever seen”.
Now, I must stress, I know only what has been alleged in the media, and that it is the word of the USADA against Mr Armstrong, and I cannot apportion any blame or deliver a verdict. However, I cannot see the claims being made against him to have been derived from spite, or jealousy. To accuse a sportsman, or anyone for that matter, of breaking the Rules and cheating, then there must be some backbone to the accusations. In fact, the USADA have gone on record to say the evidence against Mr Armstrong is, and I quote, “stronger than that presented in any case brought by USADA over the initial twelve years of USADA’s existence”.
Therefore, if what has been revealed in recent weeks turns out to be genuine, then that is almost as big a tragedy as the suffering that made this former athlete so endearing to millions of people around the World when, despite all the odds, not only did he survive, but went on to achieve miraculous glory, and used his “earnings” to try and being some good out of his previous endured pain. It is sad now to think that most of those donated proceeds have been earned dishonestly.
And it makes you ask yourselves a question. How could someone we all loved and adored, in the pursuit of victory, take to substances to try and enhance his performance? The price of victory is indeed high, but how could he try and fool the system, when regular drug testing of athletes in all sports worldwide takes place throughout the year? But most of all, how could he deceive his loyal supporters all this time, vehemently denying the claims of cheating when made against him in times gone by?
And this is what riled with me. I know he is innocent until proven guilty, and that his success over the years was bound to make fellow cyclists jealous, but when 11 of your own teammates stand up against your alleged doping program, then the game is well and truly up. And this brings me to my sermon for the week. Who can you trust nowadays.
I realise that is a very generic and open ended statement. But it resonates highly with me. I have met thousands of people in my life, and got to know many of them very well, be that through school, college, university, friends, work and so on. And in all honesty, I can probably count the amount of people I have complete trust in on one hand, maybe two at a push.
This is not me demeaning those people involved in my life, and I should probably explain myself. By ‘complete trust’, I mean that if I said something to you, and I told you not to tell another living soul, then the promise would be kept. Now that I have grown up a little (hard to believe, I know), and friends of times past have moved on, graduated and got new lives in faraway places, I openly admit that I now have a core group of friends of about 5 to 10 people; guys and girls who have always been there for me when I needed them, and vice versa, and I know they always will be. But if you think in the grand scheme of things, of all the people you have encountered in your daily lives, to only have a handful of people you can genuinely call ‘my friends’ is quite tragic, but I’m not so sure. I would rather have a small group of people I can confide in in utmost confidence, rather than a posse of acquaintances who neither care about myself, nor my business.
It’s not just the lack of people to trust in that makes me upset. What angers me more than anything, is people saying things they do not mean, as a means of appeasing people, or as “etiquette”, which is one of my most hated terms in the whole of the World. Etiquette is being nice for the sake of it. Telling Granny the jam she made from compost remains is delicious, because she laboured feverishly for hours in the kitchen to produce it.
Or, as I have experienced recently, the one you love and who supposedly loved you back telling you “you’re perfect, you’re all I ever want. I love you more than you could ever love me”, only for a few weeks later them not even be bothered to speak to you because they have been “busy at work” and they’re “tired”, leaving you feeling dejected and helpless. Did they feel the need to say what they said previous as an affirmation of the relationship? Were they saying it just to make me happy at the time? Because you know what, it did. Which is why the silence not only shocked me, it killed me inside. The one person you wanted to put a smile on their face, not even recognising your very existence.
Needless to say, the relationship is no more, as we’re now just “friends”. Although quite what that entails I am not so sure.
If somebody asked me who my favourite actor was, I would say to them, “probably my ex”. Maybe we wanted too much too soon, I do not know. But I cannot, and will not, stand for people being fake, dishonest, or two faced. There are certain things in life that you can only say if they are heartfelt. And in this instance, this particular person broke the golden rule. They promised something they could not deliver, or did not mean.
And ultimately, that is what love and friendship is all about.