Lance Armstrong the most famous face in the sport of cycling had one the most dramatic climbs to fame and the fastest downfalls of any athlete in history. Cancer survivor, seven-time winner of the Tour De France, raising millions for charity – he was a sports icon.
Despite suspicions that he relied on performance-enhancing drugs to achieve success it didn’t go very far other than brushed off accusations. Armstrong would flatly deny that anything other than ‘hard work’ had won him trophies, millions in prize money and lucrative sponsorship deals. Plus, everyone around him wanted to believe his story. A miraculous story of a man struck with cancer, beating the odds, coming back to his beloved sport, proving he was the best and silencing all the doubters.
As someone states in the documentary Lance Armstrong: Stop At Nothing, “If this were all true it’s the greatest comeback in sports history. If not, it’s the greatest fraud”.
It was a fraud.
I was never too familiar with Armstrong. I knew the basic story – great athlete, extremely popular and beloved, admitted to cheating. So this film was quite an eyeopener to me and I learned much more about him and who he really is than that iconic pristine athletic image everyone knew him as for so long.
Directed by Alex Holmes, it’s a very compelling documentary that details the lengths that Armstrong went to cover-up the plain old fact that he was using PED’s with interviews who knew the truth and some who were being deceived by him.
Even as the floodgates began to open more and more Armstrong still fought to keep his lies hidden. It’s amazing to learn of the threats some who knew the truth were targeted with and the power Armstrong was able to use to try to bury it all.
Knowing what was at stake and this empire that he was the face of that could potentially crumble, not only for the sport of cycling, but also the charities that were using his name, the inspiration that he was meant to represent to millions of people and all the money that revolved around his image, it was a shattering revelation when he finally was forced to come out with the truth.
Some of the most disturbing parts are the archive footage of Armstrong being asked through the years about ‘being juiced’. His adamant denials that he was involved in any wrongdoing and going on the offensive by being insulted with the very idea that he would ever cheat is pretty disturbing as he tries to keep his ‘miracle story’ from vanishing.
Watching those clips and now knowing full well that he was lying makes it even more disheartening to see. Wanting to win was something Armstrong was willing to do anything to accomplish, even encouraging his teammates to use drugs and if they declined Armstrong would make sure there were reprisals for them refusing.
In addition to that, seeing those who came to his defense wanting so badly to believe this fairy tale story was all true is particularly sad. The film focuses on the angle that was one of the ways Armstrong got away with his cheating for so long – people just didn’t want to accept it was all a hoax.
It’s a very well-made documentary and in the end it made me feel absolutely no sympathy for Armstrong and sorrow for what he put all those around him through.