To all the
haters that don't think cycling is a sport, and the Tour De France
ranks just below watching an apple turn brown, let's be clear:
Lance Armstrong has earned the love.
The cancer-surviving cyclist ended his career with a record seventh
straight Tour De France victory. Immediately the accolades rolled
in, and he has earned every dollop with an athletic tenacity
and compelling personal story that's touched the lives of millions.
one piece of praise seemed to stand out like Judge John Roberts
This was gushed from a guy who has taken a few spills from his
Schwinn in recent weeks: President George W. Bush. "Lance is an
incredible inspiration to people from all walks of life, and he
has lifted the spirits of those who face life's challenges," Bush
said about the fellow Texan and
"old friend". "He is a true champion."
biggest downside to a war
in Iraq is what you could do with
that money. What does a war in
Iraq cost a week? A billion?
Maybe a billion a day? The budget
for the National Cancer Institute
is four billion. That has to change.
Polls say people are much more
afraid of cancer than of a plane flying
into their house or a bomb or
any other form of terrorism."
praise struck an odd note considering Armstrong's comments after
winning his seventh yellow jersey. They weren't about the Alps,
the cobbled Paris streets, or the new bell on his handlebars.
They were about Iraq. "The biggest downside to a war in Iraq is
what you could do with that money," Armstrong said through gritted
teeth. "What does a war in Iraq cost a week? A billion? Maybe
a billion a day? The budget for the National Cancer Institute
is four billion.
has to change. Polls say people are much more afraid of cancer
than of a plane flying into their house or a bomb or any other
form of terrorism." His timing was fortuitous. A report came out
of the Congressional Budget Office the next day that indicated
the war in Iraq will cost more - adjusted for 2005 dollars - than
any war since the Second World War, with a price tag that may
near US$800 billion.
statement is significant because it represents a sharp turn from
his previous statements against the Iraq invasion. When the war
was launched out in 2003, Lance's soft anti-war views sounded
more James Baker than Ella Baker:
"I know George
Bush well, having met him about 20 times, and I support him, but
going ahead with this war without the support of Europe would
be dangerous... it would be a mistake to engage in war without
the backing of the United Nations and Europe," he said. "If there's
going to be a war then we'll be up against a billion Muslims -
so it would be unreasonable for the United States to go it alone
against such a huge part of the world."
took great pains at the time to compliment Bush with every statement,
saying that Dubya sometimes appeared "brash," but that he was
"more intelligent than people give him credit for." He added,
"Bush isn't a banker from New York, or a tycoon from California.
He's a cowboy from Texas."
2004, Armstrong's anxiety about the war was rising, perhaps affected
by the French protests during that year's Tour. But despite his
stronger objections, Armstrong still reserved praise for his "friend"
in the Oval Office. "I don't like what the war has done to our
country, to our economy," he said. "My kids will be paying for
this war for some time to come. George Bush is a friend of mine
and just as I say it to you, I'd say to him, 'Mr. President, I'm
not sure this war was such a good idea', and the good thing about
him is he could take that."
in 2005, Armstrong has taken a much harder stance. This could
be attributed to possible aspirations for political office. Armstrong
in a recent interview laid out his views on a number of issues,
describing himself as "against mixing up state and Church, not
keen on guns, pro women's right to choose. And very anti war in
Iraq," - which may lead some
of us to wonder exactly what political party in our glorious duopoly
would even allow him to stand as a candidate. Others have said
that he is simply under the sway of his rock star partner Sheryl
Crow - she of the "War is Not the Answer" T-shirts, the group
Musicians Win Without War, and singer of searing anti-war anthems
like "Soak up the Sun."
real reason for Armstrong's recent statements most likely stems
from simple frustration. Armstrong sees his life's work, cancer
funding and research, being undercut by this war. He takes this
position even though it could lose him his Oval Office access.
internet blogger wrote:
"Lance Armstrong should be
detained the moment he steps back
on American soil, and then he should
have a bicycle tire pump shoved
so far up his ass that he whistles
Dixie when he breathes."
If the cancer that spread to his lungs
and abdomen, not to mention
the Pyrenees, didn't deter Armstrong,
a pustule armed with a laptop
and fried cheese probably
won't keep him up nights.
speaks out "on foreign soil" even though it could mean derision
when he returns. He will assuredly face words such as those from
one internet blogger who wrote "Lance Armstrong should be detained
the moment he steps back on American soil, and then he should
have a bicycle tire pump shoved so far up his ass that he whistles
Dixie when he breathes." If the cancer that spread to his lungs
and abdomen, not to mention the Pyrenees, didn't deter Armstrong,
a pustule armed with a laptop and fried cheese probably won't
keep him up nights. Especially when the priorities of medical
research or "generational war" hang in the balance.
has devoted countless hours to the fight against cancer. There
is not more money for cancer research because of the war. It's
that simple. It's also not just cancer. In my hometown of Washington,
DC, this US$800 billion price tag means high rates of infant mortality,
shuttered public hospitals, and schools in a constant and eternal
state of crisis. This is a battle for priorities.
If Lance wants to see victory, chuckling it up with his "fellow
Texan" is no way to lead this movement forward. Instead Armstrong
should ride among the critical mass bikers and anti-war couriers
at the national anti-war protests on September 24 in Washington,
DC. Consider this an invite, Lance. Consider this a way to continue
to "live strong".
Dave Zirin's new book "'What's My Name, Fool?': Sports and Resistance
in the United States" [Haymarket Books] is available now. Check
out his writings at edgeofsports.com. Contact the author at [email protected]