lance armstrong

Liars, and the writers they lie to

“I drank lots and lots of orange juice, ate large mounds of steak, and now I’m the best. The end.”

Lance Armstrong owes Sally Jenkins more than just an apology.

Supposedly he uttered the words—”I’m sorry”—the other day; told her that he felt awful about having her write his autobiography, It’s Not About The Bike, when he was completely and totally full of shit. Sorry isn’t enough. Sally Jenkins deserves her time back. Her labor back. Her financial resources back. Her reputation back. Jenkins has been gracious, it seems, in the aftermath of Armstrong’s admission. Which, to me, is a tad baffling.

Because Lance Armstrong made her look like a fool.

Not that this is anything new. In 2007, Loren Mooney, for former colleague at Sports Illustrated, wrote Floyd Landis’ autobiography, Positively False. The goal of this book was—as the title indicates—to show that Landis won the Tour de France as a clean, whole rider, with nary an illegal drug or blood infusion in his body. Here is what it says on Amazon under book description: “Floyd Landis details the highs and lows of his career with unabashed honesty. It is this same honesty with which he will clear his name once and for all, as he lays bare the inner workings of the cycling world.”

Uh …

I know … I know—writers. Who cares about writers? Well, I do. And it f-ing infuriates me how, by penning the autobiographies of lying asswipes, reputable scribes like Jenkins and Mooney and Marcos Bretón (Sammy Sosa: An Autobiography) end up losing … something. Not their skills, and not their status. But, well, their images, to a certain degree. From here on out, Sally Jenkins will always be known (among other things) as the scribe who wrote Lance Armstrong’s bullshit manifesto. She was the one who gave voice to his nonsense; who penned a runaway bestseller by a fraud.

It seems, when you lie as Armstrong and Landis and Sosa and others have, you tend not to consider how it’ll impact others. Everything is about you. Your success. Your greatness. Your income. Your money. Your status. If others are ultimately hurt, well, hey. Such is life.

In less than a month, Mike Piazza is coming out with his autobiography, My Shot. The co-writer is Lonnie Wheeler, a reputable author who has done books with, among others, Reggie Jackson and Bob Gibson. In the new book, Piazza supposedly denies denies denies using any PEDs, save for (the legal) Andro. This, inevitably, will be the talking point upon release; the item reviewers and pundits cling to.

For Lonnie Wheeler’s sake, it damn well better be the truth.

PS: Of Armstrong, Jenkins says, “People are going to have to accept that I don’t feel that for him. I feel disappointment. But he’s my friend.” To me, this is beyond amazing—and speaks to Jenkins’ decency. Because I’d be mad as all hell.

The right to not believe

In 2013, all sports fans are right not to believe.

It sucks. It’s not good. It’s disappointing.

But it’s logical.

I haven’t believed Lance Armstrong in years. Literally, I’ve been telling people (fans of his), “You really buy this? You really think this is possible?”

“Yes,” they’d say. “Yes, yes, yes.”

No.

Forget the drop tests, forget the doping, and consider this: To believe Lance Armstrong, you had to believe that a man who nearly died of cancer was able to win the world’s toughest cycling race SEVEN times clean. Not only that, you’d have to believe that, while winning the world’s toughest cycling race SEVEN times clean, he was beating hundreds of other top-flight, all-world cyclists who were cheating. Not only that, you’d have to believe that, while winning the world’s toughest cycling race SEVEN times clean while beating hundreds of other top-flight, all-world cyclists who were cheating, everything that was said about Armstrong was false. You had to believe every “He’s not clean” comment from rivals was false. That people were putting their names and reputations on the line because of pure jealousy.

Not. Believable.

When Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record, I said, “No way. Do you guys really believe this?”

Giant fans killed me. Attacked me. Threatened me. What the fuck do you know? Who the hell are you? Go to hell.

To believe Barry Bonds was clean, you had to believe that a 39-year-old man was capable of hitting 45 home runs in a season. Not only that, you had to believe that a 39-year-old man capable of hitting 45 home runs in a season could have his skull increase in diameter by some odd natural fluke. Not only that, you had to believe that a 39-year-old man capable of hitting 45 home runs in a season whose skull increased in diameter by some odd natural fluke wasn’t getting anything unnatural from Victor Conte, a known PED peddler. On and on and on.

As Armstrong and Bonds and hundreds of others have shown us, testing is—with some exception—a joke. So when athletes say, “Hey, I’ve never failed a test,” it means nothing. Nothing at all. There’s a long and sordid history of athletes fighting against invasive tasting, insisting it’s (a) unnecessary; (b) violates privacy; (c) violates some union code. That’s fine. But by taking such a stance, players allow us—hell, command us—to not believe. If proof is almost impossible to attain, and that lack of attainment ability is a cause of the athlete himself, well, what other tools do we have?

We must reply on common sense.

On judgment.

The most unfair part of it all

As the HGH and steroid and Hall of Fame continues, I’m reminded of who, ultimately, gets dicked the most.

Answer: Fan supporters.

By “fan supporters,” I mean those loyalists who stand behind an athlete who has been (rightly, as it turns out) accused of cheating. In the aftermath of “Love Me, Hate Me,” my biography of Barry Bonds, tons upon tons of Giants die-hards slammed me, ripped me, attacked me for the audacity of suggesting their hero cheated. Then, it turned out, he cheated.

Silence from the masses.

I wrote two CNN.com columns in 2012 on Lance Armstrong, and how it was crystal clear that he was completely full of crud. Man, the letters I received. Who the fuck do you think you are? What gives you the right? You’re just a hater. Then, of course, enough came out to prove Armstrong’s true self.

Silence from the masses.

As more and more PED-era ballplayers talk; as more feel comfortable using their names behind their secrets, the pattern will, I believe, repeat itself. Inevitably, the angry Mike Piazza defenders—convinced their hero is being targeted out of jealousy by a bunch of pencil-necked geek writers—will be hit with enough knowledge that his accomplishments will be, rightly, reduced. Inevitably, furious Jeff Bagwell backers—certain that he was a natural, clean, whole milk-and-steak-consuming mountain of a ballplayer—will see that milk and steak only go so far.

Silence will follow.

The thing is, I take no comfort in that silence. Professional athletes don’t exist without fans. Hell, if no one watches the games, no one pays the salaries, no one cares. That’s why it infuriates me how Bonds, and Armstrong, and Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa—convinced fans of their innocence and pureness … then yanked the rug away. It’s not merely selfish; it’s friggin’ mean. Whether you’re a child or an adult, few things are worse than finding out that you put your love behind a scoundrel.

I know—back in 2008, my presidential candidate of choice was John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator with the people’s touch. I believed Edwards was the best man; the right man; the perfect man to serve in the highest office.

Then—yank!

It was all a lie.