The 2017 Tour de France began and with it the contagious fever for millions of fans around the world. It even got yours truly as I bought a new bicycle and started riding last Sunday. Of course, it is not a racing one but a beach cruiser so my back doesn’t hurt.
Before I hit the road, I took the bike to the store to get the breaks checked–I didn’t trust my husband doing it! hahaha–and there I had an experience that filled my heart with patriotic pride. The kid behind the counter noticed my accent, when I told him I was Colombian his eyes opened wide and said with respect, “Wow! We need to put you in one of our teams so you can beat them all!“
I could hardly contain my laughter but I thanked him for his kind remark. I confessed my legs could barely survive a couple of laps around my neighborhood which is merely six miles. He later named all the other Colombian racers who are part of the teams competing at the Tour de France.
The golden 80’s generation of Colombian racers known in the world as the Escarabajos (beetles in English) represented by “The Gardener” Lucho Herrera and Fabio Parra, and the current generation of rising stars such as Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Uran, have been acclaimed in the professional cycling circles no only as amazing athletes, but also as fair play and anti-doping representatives of the sport.
In comparison, the US continues to ride under the radar due to the demoralizing scandal of the seven times champion of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong. The “King of the Tour” and the USPS Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team captured the glory and millions of dollars from sponsors between 1999 and 2005.
Nonetheless, they left enemies at every curve who didn’t give up in their quest to expose the largest, most professional, sophisticated and effective doping network in the history of sports.
According to the 2012 report of the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) Armstrong not only consumed performance enhancing drugs, but also coerced his teammates so he could have leverage and blackmail them in the future should they ever decide to become whistle blowers.
The detailed report includes the intimidation and retaliation methods used by Armstrong against other members of the team–masseuses, therapists, and medical team–to keep them quiet. It also mentions the defamation lawsuits he filed to stop the allegations of investigative sport journalists and cycling veterans who dared to questions his “superhuman” performance.
A couple of years ago I watched the thrilling Netflix documentary Stop at Nothing The Lance Armstrong Story with my husband and I could not believe the magnitude of the deceitful scheme. The film portrays the real pathological liar who lived inside the beloved cancer survivor and unbeatable athlete through the testimony of Armstrong’s closest friends, who went as far to say they feared for their lives.
But as bad as accepting the charges of the USADA and crying in front of Oprah on TV was, Lance Armstrong gave yet a worse picture of his soul. In a BBC interview in 2015 he was asked about his doping practices and without a sign of remorse he declared that if he were racing in 1995 he probably would do it again.
Although I dream about watching one of my fellow Colombian cyclists roll across the Champs-Élysées on the last stage and to be crowned as the champion of the Tour de France, I also long that beyond the yellow, green, and polka-dot jerseys, my brave escarabajos will always wear the jersey of honor accomplished by fair play without doping so they can be example for the future generations of cycling around the world.
Bonne chance pour les Colombiens!
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