Last night I had the pleasure of attending "The Pursuit of Lance Armstrong – An Audience with David Walsh" at Leeds University.
The story is well documented in many places, not least Walsh’s personal account in his book "Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong (2012)".
I found Walsh to be a genuine and honest person. His accounts of his early life as a journalist painted the picture of a man with integrity, having been faced with questions of morals and "should I report this story" it seemed he always stood by what was the right thing to do – despite pressures to not.
Lance Armstrong treated him like shit. And unsurprisingly so. Here was a man who was pursuing cycling’s greatest hero. A hero that transcended cycling – arguably the first to truly do so. And Walsh saw through it, despite overwhelming pressure to believe, and continued on the path to bring him down.
Walsh’s accounts of being abandoned by other journalists for fear of being seen with him and therefore blacklisted by the Armstrong entourage highlighted the enormous pressure he was under; to report the Tour de France without having any access to its leading rider doesn’t give the public the story they want to hear.
I’ve documented my personal feelings of Lance Armstrong in a previous blog post. My opinions have changed a little from then. Not in the coming back from cancer story being a separate issue than the doping issue, but in my personal feelings of Armstrong. While I never loved the guy on a personal level I have a lot of respect for his determination, but not for taking that determination to bring others down; and not down in a bike riding sense. The way he treated Betsy Andreu, Bassons and many others wasn’t recognised by me. I’d heard the stories but I’d dismissed them because I didn’t want to tarnish my relationship with the Lance Armstrong story. Having read up on them since I am severely disappointed.
The point of this post is greater than the LA story but highlights it perfectly. Throughout the discussions I’ve had about LA and the comments I’ve read online people are very quick to make judgment of how Lance is feeling. Comments along the lines of "the only thing he is sorry about is getting caught" and "I imagine an apology from Lance to be hollow and disingenuous" (in regard to the phone call to Betsy Andreau).
People are quick to relay their own perceptions of feelings onto a situation and not stick to the facts.
Walsh maintained integrity throughout, never commenting on LA’s personal life. LA was not so kind in return. This is the mark of quality journalism. Too many times I read columns and news reports that are opinion pieces designed to sway thinking. They don’t deal with the facts.
Yes, opinion pieces should exist but should be from a person’s personal experience of a situation. Speaking about their feelings, not their opinion of someone else’s feelings. As soon as you project your own rendition of how another should be feeling you are being false and untrue to yourself and to them. You cannot possibly know how another is feeling.
It happens all the time and it’s how newspapers and news agencies peddle their own agenda and create opinion among the weak willed and ill-educated masses. Ill educated meaning people who have never challenged themselves to think about a situation based on the facts they have. People who are quick to take the opinion of someone else because it doesn’t require real thought on their part. People who don’t question what is put in front of them.
I don’t want this to be holier-than-thou – we’re all subject to these pressures every day. But please don’t let yourself be dragged down into the mob mentality.
Question everything, especially yourself.