It’s not about the Bike by Lance Armstrong

So the latest choice was a great success at the book club, and as predicted raised many philosophical questions, as well as bringing out some inevitable strong opinions and colourful language!

The autobiography was written in 2001 and tells Lance Armstrong’s story from his diagnosis of testicular cancer, through the trauma of the treatment, and finally to his subsequent recovery and return to professional cycling. The book ends with Lance winning the the Tour de France, a title he had been chasing and dreaming of throughout his career. Following the publication of the book, Armstrong went on to win 7 more Tour de France titles, pretty impressive for a man who was previously riddled with cancer and on death’s door. However, the story of the exposed drugs cheat is now common knowledge, and he has now publicly admitted that he was doping and taking the banned substance EPO for his entire career. He has been stripped of all his Tour de France titles, sued by most of his sponsors and is viewed by many as a disgrace and a disappointment. So what did we think reading Armstrong’s autobiography, now knowing the truth?

I must admit I was expecting a unanimous onslaught of abuse against Lance, with everyone slating the now exposed drugs cheat, but I was pleased to discover that there were mixed opinions about the former cyclist which provided excellent discussion points and a very enjoyable evening!

Most admitted that due to the recent media frenzy, they had approached the book defensively, expecting to hate him. It was always going to be difficult going in to such a topic with an open mind! Indeed we were all angered by Lance’s blatant lies and the constant reference to his total aversion and disgust towards the mere thought of doping. However, despite the clear dishonesty, a few of the group admitted that although they were expecting to dislike him from the start, they quite liked him, and felt that he has been overly vilified in the press, with suggestions that if everyone was doing it, why is he the only one being punished? It was also put forward that he possibly never meant for the doping to snowball to such an extent, but once he became involved he found himself in a web of lies and deceit that was impossible to escape from. This was swiftly followed up by several counter-arguments, one of which being that Lance didn’t just join the drug-takers, but led them, which subsequently meant that he set the precedent which others had no choice but to follow if they wanted to get anywhere near the top.

However, I digress, it was difficult to keep the conversation on the book in hand, rather than the subsequent backlash! It was generally agreed that Lance himself came across as arrogant and egotistical in the book. None of us really warmed to him as he only seemed to be out for himself and his own gains. However, it was suggested that perhaps in order to make it to the top of your sport in a world class field you need to be ruthless and selfish.

Despite all of this, we agreed that to come back from the jaws of death and a savage year of chemotherapy to win the toughest and most famous cycle race in the world is no mean feat, and drugs or no drugs it is an incredible achievement. There are many cycling fans amongst us and therefore a lot of disappointed people who were stoic followers of Lance and now feel totally let down. Perhaps the most poignant comment to end on was in retaliation to someone suggesting that at least he has owned up now and finally come clean. But the truth is, Armstrong didn’t choose to confess, he was caught, so if he had managed to escape those positive tests just one last time, would he ever have admitted it? I think we all know the answer to that one.

Overall this was a great book choice and again one which many of us would never have considered reading. We all thoroughly enjoyed it and had some brilliant discussions together, as well as educating ourselves a great deal more in both the world of cycling and drug taking in sport! Due to the egotistical nature of the story, we agreed that a more suitable name for the book would in fact be; ‘It’s ALL about the bike’!

The next book is a mysterious one… It is an as yet unpublished novel which we have agreed to read and give our feedback on. It is called ‘Once a Spider’ and so far this is all I know. Stay tuned to find out more!

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