We discuss and comment on the role agriculture will play in the containment of the CO2 problem and address protocols for terraforming the planet Earth.
A model farm template is imagined as the central methodology. A broad range of timely science news and other topics of interest are commented on.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Lance Armstrong Purgatory
have no doubt that Lance Armstrong will find a fresh focus and will
apply his energy to changing things. Do it right and his first
twenty some years can be reduced to a foot note. At least he
personally has the resourcesc to do so and he also has the asset of
name recognition to work from. This guarantees press coverage even
if he were xselling soap.
only question remains the stage for a public comeback.
do not think that it will be too long either.
ARMSTRONG IN PURGATORY: TE AFTER-LIFE
a great fall, what do we remember? We remember the cheating, and the
lies. We remember the cult of personality that we eagerly embraced,
and then felt betrayed by. But what of the man who fell? What about
the work he didn't cheat at? What about the 16 years Lance Armstrong
spent building a global cancer advocacy? Did it matter? Does it
still? Does it matter that Livestrong, the foundation that kicked him
out, now wants him back? Do we care what happens to the great work a
man has done, after a great fall?
in purgatory, the
mansion is smaller, but the wine cellar, paneled in rich mahogany and
stocked with thousands of bottles, is truly magnificent. The TV will
go over on that wall. The lighting system is still being installed
but it will be all muted and indirect, like an art gallery.
he leads a tour of his art collection. The work is edgy and full of
dark action: a photograph of a dancing couple with giant thorns
emerging from their backs, a photorealistic painting of a woman
jumping through a window, an empty desert landscape charged with
eerie stillness. "That's by Ed Ruscha," he says. "He's
a friend." There's a giant wooden map of Texas on the wall. If
you look close, he says, you see that every single line was burned
into the wood with a pyrographic iron. "I like art that makes me
go, How did he do that?" he says. "Stuff that is
he says, he'll dig out a really beautiful piece made completely out
of cockroach wings.
the desk of his little office nook sits a sculpted arm made out of
laminated skateboards that, in a perfect touch, ends in a fist with
an upraised middle finger.
fall from an ordinary perch is a universal story. Few of us get
through life without one taste of failure and disgrace. But the fall
from a very great height is a different order of experience
altogether, because it happens to a different kind of person—the
kind who was driven to climb that high in the first place. Should it
come as a surprise that such a person—this man right here—makes a
Self-loathing? Emotional paralysis? Lance Armstrong will not indulge,
thank you. A year and a half after the scandal that ended his career,
after being stripped of all his trophies and confessing the ugly
truth to his children and losing in a single day an estimated $150
million, these are the circumstances to which he has been reduced.
glass of wine, perhaps? Or is it time yet to mix up some of his
special margaritas—Lanceritas he calls them—with the ice crushed
just so? He loves his Lanceritas, and he loves his crushed ice.
his preference for solitary sports, Armstrong also loves a full
house. Little children are everywhere, their toys littering the floor
of every room. In the kitchen, a coven of beautiful women is
preparing dinner. One is his loving girlfriend, a Modigliani blond
named Anna Hansen. Her equally beautiful friend teases Armstrong with
easy intimacy, bringing a glass of freshly opened wine out to the
outdoor sofas by the pool. "Here's your wine, HRH," she
says. "We call him HRH for 'His Royal Highness.' "
the food cooks, Armstrong lounges—on this Sunday afternoon in
Austin, the sun is bright and the temperature cool—watching a
toddler in a Supergirl outfit wrestle his youngest son to the grass.
Life is good, he insists. He has five happy children. He's learned
who his real friends are. And he is learning to not fight all the
time. Really. A fringe benefit of crushing defeat is learning to
for that leaf scooper jutting up over his wall. The neighbor always
leaves it sticking up there. Look at that goddamn ugly thing, man,
ruining an otherwise perfect setting. It is most definitely not
perfect. Not perfect at all. You can see this incongruity just
working on Armstrong, in his eyes, the set of his jaw.
couple more glasses of wine and you'll climb over there," a
through dinner, Armstrong begins slurring his words. Just a little,
barely noticeable. He detaches and focuses on his meal while his
friends carry the conversation, chatting about Austin traffic and how
the media only quotes the bad things. Some of Armstrong's kids drift
through, a little one sitting in his lap and begging for a sleepover.
He masks affection with a pretense of crankiness, or maybe he is
actually a little cranky. Either way, tonight every second of his
forty-two years shows. Even here, in the afterlife, he manages to
make relaxation look remarkably intense.
bears reminding that before Armstrong became a reviled figure, this
same intensity made him Herculean, to none more so than people all
over the world with cancer. To those people, he remains a hero, and
it is that work, he says, that has given his life the most meaning,
even though the global cancer charity he built and seeded with almost
$8 million from his own bank account told him not long ago it wanted
nothing further to do with him and literally erased his name from
memory, changing its name from the Lance Armstrong Foundation to the
trail him for a few days and watch how giddy and hopeful the sick and
the dying become in his presence, forgetting for a moment their
nausea and pain and mortal fears. Amid all the controversy and
disgrace, you admit, you forgot just how important Lance Armstrong
was and still is to cancer patients everywhere.
you and about seven billion other people," Armstrong says.
even got kicked out of a local swim meet. This was six months after
the USADA—the United States Anti-Doping Agency—issued the
lifetime ban against him competing in any sport "under the
Olympic umbrella," which includes pretty much anything anywhere.
(The cyclists who testified against him, most of whom were just as
guilty, got six months.) But he figured a little Austin swim race
would be okay. It's Austin, for chrissakes, his refuge, and the
organizer said it was fine, he could swim—but then one
a problem and the calls went from Austin to Florida to Switzerland
and finally the answer came back: No, Lance Armstrong can't even
compete in a local swim meet. "Anything I try to do, any sport,
even archery and volleyball, I can't do it," he says.
in October 1996, he was given no hope. It is his survivor status that
continues to make him a beacon for cancer patients globally. "Lance
was a motherfucker for cancer," says a close friend.
sorry, he swears, for the lies and the bullying and the lawsuits
against journalists. "It was indefensible," he says. "Pure
hubris." But he's not going to be a hypocrite, either. The
doping charges were bullshit. "Nobody has stepped forward and
said, 'I really won those races,' " he says. "They didn't
award those jerseys to somebody else. I won those races."
we can stipulate: Lance Armstrong cheated death, and then he kept on
cheating. And he was no run-of-the-mill cheat. Sublimely American in
his ambition, he became the best cheater, greatest cheater of all
time, turning a European bicycle race into a gaudy, ruthless, and
unprecedented demonstration of American corporate prowess and
athletic hegemony. He doped and bullied other bikers to dope and sued
or harassed people for telling the truth about him, which is hard to
forgive. But he wasn't the evil genius who invented evil. At
twenty-three days and twenty-two hundred miles, the Tour is so hard
that cyclists have always sought some kind of performance
enhancement. In the 1920s, they took cocaine and alcohol, and in the
1940s, amphetamines. In 1962, fourteen of them dropped out because of
morphine sickness. Between 1987 and 1992, use of the blood-oxygen
booster called EPO may have killed as
many as twenty-three riders. But even that didn't stop them. In his
testimony to the antidoping agency, testimony that helped ruin
Armstrong, a former teammate named Frankie Andreu told investigators
that when they first met on the European circuit in 1992, both of
them quickly realized that "it was going to be difficult to have
professional success as a cyclist without using EPO." This was,
in fact, the "general consensus" of the entire team, Andreu
that's how things stayed. The year before Armstrong won his first
Tour, seven entire teams left the race after an assistant for the
Festina team was caught with massive quantities of EPO, testosterone,
and human growth hormone. The year after he left, the first-place
winner got disqualified because of a bad test. The handful of
idealists who refused to take anything at all, men like Darren Baker
and Scott Mercier, quickly learned they couldn't compete and dropped
out. Everyone in cycling was aware of this history, and everyone knew
the charges against Armstrong—the first book-length exposé came
out way back in 2004. Nike even made them the subject of one of its
most famous ads, a montage of swooping bicycle attacks matched to
Armstrong's confident narration:
wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike busting my
ass six hours a day.
was a spectacular product, a very winning brand, and as long as he
kept protesting his innocence and a shred of doubt persisted, anyone
remotely associated with him continued to profit. Trek Bicycle
doubled its sales, Nike washed away the memories of its sweatshop
scandals, his teammates shared the profits from his victories, and
his foundation pulled in hundreds of millions in charitable
donations. The rest of us profited in more subtle ways. In the dark
days that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Armstrong was a living
American myth, the troubled and cocky natural who fought testicular
cancer and came back to win the hardest sports event in the world
seven times in a row. Seven
times in a row! It
was a resurrection, a modern miracle. He appeared on Wheaties boxes,
starred in those iconic Nike ads, presented a bike to Bill Clinton at
the White House, hung out with Bono and Sean Penn, dated Sheryl Crow
and Kate Hudson, and wrote a best-selling memoir calledIt's
Not About the Bike that
inspired cancer patients like nothing had ever inspired them before.
He replaced the phrase "cancer victim" with "cancer
survivor" and made it so hip to wear a yellow Livestrong
bracelet, ninety million of them sold at a dollar apiece. John Kerry
wore one on the campaign trail. John McCain talked about cancer at a
Livestrong event. There was serious talk about a campaign for
governor of Texas.
believed in this story as much as anybody. He came out of a shabby
little Dallas suburb like a snarling dog, son of a scrappy teenage
mother who still hasn't forgiven the dirty looks of her classmates
and a stepfather who cheated frequently and beat him with a
fraternity paddle. "As bad as he says his childhood was,"
one old friend says, "it was worse. And the lesson he took from
that was that people will fuck you, and you have to fight for
everything you get." In sports, he transformed that lesson into
a warrior's code. "Did you ever hear about how when you stab
somebody, it's really personal?" one coach told him. "Well,
a bike race is that kind of personal. Don't kid yourself. It's a
treated the doping charges like a knife fight too, playing the cancer
card shamelessly—in one Nike ad, racing along narrow roads in his
iconic yellow helmet, he sneered at his detractors:
critics say I'm arrogant. A doper. Washed up. A fraud. That I
couldn't let it go. They can say whatever they want—I'm not back on
my bike for them.
to a cancer ward, where the camera panned over the chemo-ravaged
patients to teach those silly critics a lesson in what's really
he got away with it. Despite all the rumors and accusations,
Armstrong retired in 2005 with a clean record. His fatal mistake was
trying to make a comeback four years later—and that is where his
story goes into a deeper level of myth. As in a prophetic tale, he
remembers one particular night of grim foreboding in Fort Davis,
Texas, when he sensed his comeback was going to bring down the
furies. He and Anna were at a café. "Every part of my being
said, I gotta fucking stop this right now—I can't do this. And
Anna, bless her heart, was saying, 'What are you talking about?
What's the problem?' " But he couldn't stop. The sponsors were
chomping at the bit for a comeback. The foundation and the fans were
excited. Fate was beckoning him, and he couldn't turn away. "I
would do anything to be sitting back in that small café with Anna,
and make a decision to just call it off."
it all vanished in an instant. Cornered for transgressions that
surprised absolutely no one inside the sport, Armstrong suffered one
of the most astonishing and brutal reversals of fortune in American
history, a level of punishment so extreme it raises the question of
what was really being punished.
year and a half later, Armstrong is still trying to figure out the
week or so, he sits down in
the little office nook at the end of his living room and turns on his
laptop camera. This message will be for Melody Ruggles, a sweet-faced
nurse from Michigan who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2011.
As a medical professional, she knew right away how bad the diagnosis
was. An immediate bowel surgery and a painful course of chemotherapy
followed, but before long the doctors discovered fresh spots of
cancer. To cheer her up, a stepdaughter named Jynell Tackett started
a Facebook page called Melody's
Get Well Card Drive and
invited people from all over the world to send cards saying they were
thinking about Ruggles. One of the invitations got to Armstrong. By
that time, new lumps had shown up on her liver and small intestine.
lives his salvaged life in a more modest house, but Armstrong still
has a lovely wine cellar, nice art on the walls, and, when the
weather's good, makes his special Lanceritas out by the pool.
was just a few months after the scandal broke, and he was still in a
cocooning phase, hiding out from the world. In the video, light comes
in slices through the Venetian blinds behind him. He's wearing a
T-shirt and forgot to shave. There's the smallest hint of a haunted
expression in his stony face, as if he's looking down a long tunnel
with no light at the end. But right now, thankfully, it's not about
Melody. I'm Lance Armstrong. I just wanted to send you a short video
message to let you know that I'm thinking about you and I'm pulling
for you. I understand you've had some up-and-down news when it comes
to your health. Just hang in there and know there are brighter days
ahead. If there's anything I can ever do to help you, please let me
know. In the meantime, keep kicking cancer's ass. Best of luck.
might not seem like much, but Tackett says the message gave Ruggles a
boost that lasted for months. "She has so much more energy to
fight this now," she said. Partly this was because the other
celebrities who responded sent preautographed cards, and partly it
was because of Armstrong's own medical history. "To have someone
who's been through cancer take the time to not just send her a card
or have someone put it in front of him, but to actually read the
story we sent and to make the video—whatever happened with Lance,
whether he did drugs or didn't do drugs, he went through chemo and he
still went up and down all those hills. So it said to Melody,
'Whatever you're going through, you can go on.' "
for a moment at least, Armstrong gets to be the man he used to be.
oldest friends are
worried about him. "He may think he's not going through a
terrible time," one says. "But he's going through a
the first to see his flaws, describing him as a control freak with no
filter who always pushes every person as hard as he can. "If you
ask him for advice, he'll say you need to lose ten pounds and go
faster on the bike," says an old friend named John Korioth.
"Very cut and dry, just 'Shut up and do it.' "
the way they see things, everything is connected. They remember when
he first came to Austin and got the nickname FedEx because he always
had to have it overnight. He was boastful, he liked to say he was a
"training zero and a racing hero," he'd hit the bars at
night and chase women constantly.
made everything worse. For years, Armstrong flew around on a private
Gulfstream in a constant hum of attention and activity. He went
through every day without being told no by a single person and drove
his pilots so hard they complained about all the traveling. Women
threw themselves at him. Men threw themselves at him. "He got a
little insufferable," Korioth says.
they also remember the first little charity ride in Austin back when
his survival was still in doubt and the plan was to give the money to
the American Cancer Society. "There was not a single ulterior
motive," says another friend, who asked to remain anonymous. "It
was absolutely heroic at just a base level, a dying man doing
something good." But when the Society refused to earmark the
money for testicular cancer, Armstrong reacted with his usual "Fuck
you" and decided to start his own damn foundation. It turned
into a spectacular success, pulling in more than half a billion
dollars over the next fifteen years. "Lance was a motherfucker
for cancer," says the friend. "He was as hard on everybody
at the foundation as he was on anybody on the bike teams. He was
like, 'That guy's not good enough, fire him.' 'Dude, he just lost his
mother.' 'It doesn't matter, he's not cutting it.' "
tells the story of a Texas bike ride called Hotter'N Hell Hundred,
held annually in the 100 degree temperatures of August. He was
helping set up a fundraiser when he says a race organizer told him
that it wasn't unusual for people to die in the race. Shocked, he
called Armstrong. "Hey man, do you know that people die in this
ride every year?"
you know how many people die of cancer every year?
president of the Livestrong foundation is a cancer survivor named
Doug Ulman. Armstrong found him working for a little cancer charity
Ulman had started after his own fight to survive and brought him to
Austin to work with him. In the following years, Ulman spent most of
his time feeding Armstrong's unquenchable desire for an active role
in the foundation. "I had a window to see what no one else
saw—the phone calls, the visits, the e-mails," he says. "When
I'd hear people bad-mouth him, I was like, 'They have no idea what
he's spending his time doing.' "
the most expressive person, Armstrong was awkward with other cancer
patients at first, but he developed a practical approach. He would
tell them to fight for better treatment, to insist on the best
doctors, and to be ready to go to war with insurance companies. He
would tell them to forget God and focus on good science, which made
some people uncomfortable, but in this as in everything he would not
be restrained. He also talked freely about coming down with cancer of
the testicles and masturbating out a supply of sperm, because not
only did he intend to survive, he was planning to become a father
too. And he did all this with steely eyes and a steady smile, his
natural abrasiveness adding a nice gritty texture to the underlying
am a fearless warrior and you can be, too. He
became the patron saint of fighting like a junkyard dog.
gone from light speed to a school zone," he says, "and part
of me doesn't mind." Here with his youngest, three-year-old
Olivia. "Dude, she's out of her mind. She's just like me, that
Armstrong himself, this defiant message became a vindication of his
entire approach to life. To this day, his friends say, people ask why
he risked everything for a comeback, knowing he was guilty and
knowing he'd be tested and challenged more frequently than any
athlete in the history of sports. Was he was trying to prove he could
win the Tour without drugs? Did he miss the limelight? Was it money?
Did he long for the white-hot glory days of moral perfection at the
head of his cancer foundation? All of that and more, the friends
light doesn't go to the moth. The moth goes to the light.
all of that has stopped completely and the man who won seven straight
victories in the hardest athletic event in the world is stuck in his
worst nightmare, a purposeless limbo. Only through his private videos
and an occasional phone call from a cancer charity asking for help is
he able to hold on to shreds of the work that has given his life its
greatest meaning. "I don't think he wants to admit how
sustaining it was for him," his friend says. "He doesn't
think, Holy shit, that filled a hole in my soul, because he doesn't
think about the hole in his soul."
days, he usually wakes up early
and goes for a run—just five miles or so, taking it easy—and
drops his younger kids off at school. Then he heads out to the golf
it's Barton Creek and his partners are John Korioth—known as
"College" because he actually went to one—an older man
they call "Coach," and another guy who is a lawyer. To make
it interesting, they're playing for a dollar a stroke, with an option
to multiply the final tally by a number of the winner's choosing.
the first hole, Armstrong drives into the rough. College teases, "You
got enough balls? You want to call the pro shop?"
the second hole, Armstrong manages a birdie. Coach says he's luckier
than a two-dicked dog.
everything came crashing down, Armstrong says, he hated golf. The
game isn't natural to him. You have to swivel your hips and his legs
were all about up and down. Now he takes lessons, plays eighteen
holes, then goes home to watch golf on TV. Hansen jokes about being a
golf widow, but Armstrong just shrugs. "What else am I gonna
the last couple of months, he's even given up on workouts. Sometimes
he goes for a bike ride, but nothing too rigorous. "It's like, I
don't really care," he says, a little mystified. "It's
he still loves to win. When he sinks another birdie putt, he crows.
"Booyah! Line zero, baby! Wooh!"
to this day, in any forum available to him, Armstrong refuses to
repent on the main charge against him. He seems sincere in his regret
for lying so insistently and suing people who tried to expose him,
but on the charge of doping he simply cannot form his lips around the
pious apology the public expects. The choice was clear, he says. He
could either do what it took to win or go back to Austin and work in
a bike shop. And he can't resist a dash of disdain for the people who
admired him for being so relentless and then despised him for being
too relentless. What about Michael Irvin, the Dallas Cowboys wide
receiver? "I mean, he was getting busted with strippers and
cocaine and shit. All the Cowboys, they were fucking nuts. And he had
this one great line: 'I'm gonna catch a touchdown this weekend and
it's all good.' "
Armstrong they held to a different standard.
putt this or chip it?"
'Cause you just want to bump it and let it run on down."
never in my life done that."
time to start."
doesn't even make the green and ends up doubling the hole.
was on another golf course in November 2012 when he got the call from
Jeff Garvey, the chairman of Livestrong. Garvey said he wanted
Armstrong's resignation. The media pressure was too intense, the news
trucks had been parked outside their doors for weeks, donations were
evaporating—within a year they would drop 35 percent. For a rare
moment, Armstrong was just speechless. To be pushed out of his own
foundation, abandoned at his lowest point, that was the worst blow of
all. His golf partner that day, his buddy Chad, gave him some advice:
"Look around you, Lance," he said. The golf course was in
Hawaii, high up on a bluff overlooking the Pacific with the sun
sparkling on the water. "This is the view on the worst day of
bends over his club. "I have to think about this shot for a
second," he says. "I can't fuck this up."
ball sails right to the green, and for a moment he exults. "Did
you see that? Holy shit! I thought that thing was gonna go right in
a moment he loses himself in the pure feeling, becomes the
victory in a way that summons the glorious days when winning was the
definition of his life. But now he's at the mercy of the whimsical
god of golf, and his game falls apart on the back nine. "I shit
the bed," he says later, disgusted with himself.
there's one consolation—he wins the wager, taking $450 off Coach.
The victory may be small, but his joy in winning will never go away.
at her kitchen table, dressed
in a simple gray outfit that looks like workout gear, Hansen
remembers the final days when everything fell apart. First, in
October 2012, came the antidoping agency's report, released just days
before Livestrong's fifteen-year gala. She can't help thinking that
was deliberate and malicious. "We were going to have to go stand
in front of all of these thousands of people. You're almost, like,
got through that night all right, sustained by his usual stoicism in
the face of pain. Then his sponsors started dropping him one after
another—in a single day, his phone ringing incessantly through yet
another game of golf, he lost eight sponsors and $150 million.
Korioth was playing with him that day and marvels at how he shrugged
off the calls and kept on playing. By that night, except for a few
small business investments like his bike shop, he had no income at
all and nothing to do with his days.
took off to Hawaii, the Armstrong family's favorite refuge. Hansen
was at home when Armstrong got the fateful call from Jeff Garvey. He
called her from the golf course. "They want me out," he
said. He sounded as close to miserable as she'd ever heard him.
Garvey had been like a father figure to him—he called him Papa and
had once arranged for Sheryl Crow to give a concert in his yard.
the time Armstrong got back to the hotel, he was apoplectic. "This
is ridiculous," he said. "I'm resigning." She
convinced him to cool down and think it through.
night he brooded. Just before dawn, he fired off a furious e-mail and
cc'd it to every staff member at the foundation. When Hansen woke up,
he told her, "I did it. I resigned. I sent the e-mail."
the expression on his face, she knew it was bad. "What did you
say?" she demanded.
showed her the e-mail. In language later described by one of the
recipients as "Armstrongese," the gist was: "I spent
fifteen years building this and seven or eight million dollars of my
own money and never
dreamed that it would be led by cowards."
went on and on.
next day, Armstrong sent the entire staff an apology, but it was too
late. And that seemed to be the final blow that took the fight out of
him. First he gathered his three older kids and told them to stop
defending him because he had lied about a lot of things, a painful
conversation that Armstrong refuses to discuss in detail, despite its
humanizing potential. Then he flew to Austin to do the Oprah show
alone, leaving the family in Hawaii.
was nervous before the show, not sure what to say or who he would be
after. Waiting for the taping to begin, he got a text from his oldest
son, Luke, who was thirteen. "I love you, dad. You'll always be
my hero." He reached Hansen on the phone and tried to read the
message to her, but choked up. She'd never heard such emotion in his
months after that, they hunkered down "like it was a bombing
drill," Hansen says.
is finally starting to relax a little, she says. He listens more. A
few weeks ago he even took their son Max to a kid's birthday party
all by himself, sitting there just like a regular dad. "One of
my girlfriends was saying, 'I like Lance so much more now.' "
the Internet never lets you forget. Just last week, one of the twins
asked why she didn't know everything. "What do you mean,
everything?" Hansen asked. "She said, 'Well, did Dad sue a
bunch of people?' "
conversation, she says, will probably take years.
this year, Armstrong
sat back down in his little office nook, wearing his Mellow hat and
an old T-shirt. He flipped on the laptop cam and gave the little
camera at the top of the screen his stony winner's staredown.
time he was making a video for Kevin Scoggins, a beer distributor
down in Cleveland, Tennessee, who'd been fighting lymphoma for nine
years. Way back during his first round of chemo, Scoggins's doctor
suggested he try riding a bike to get back in shape. "I kind of
laughed at him and said, 'You're kidding—I haven't been on a bike
since I was ten.' The doctor said, 'Well, it worked for Lance
Armstrong.' I said, 'Who the hell is Lance Armstrong?' "
little research turned his life around. "Just knowing some of
the chemotherapy drugs he went through and still came back, it gave
me an inspiration." He started riding a bike and rode it
religiously. "Without that," Scoggins says, "I don't
know that I'd be where I'm at now. I'm probably in better shape than
I've ever been in my life."
least he was until last October, when his condition took a bad turn.
The gearheads at his local bike shop got the idea of contacting the
gearheads at Armstrong's bike shop, who sent word of Scoggins's
condition up the ladder.
Kevin, I'm Lance Armstrong. I got news from some friends of yours
through the bike shop here in Austin, Mellow Johnny's, that you're
going through a little rough battle with cancer. I wanted to send you
a short video message to let you know I'm thinking about you. I know
there's a lot of great folks down there in Nashville, a lot of great
hospitals, a lot of great care. Rely on that. Trust your friends,
rely on your friends, and let me know if I can ever help you, man.
Best of luck.
the video arrived, Scoggins had just finished up several hospital
tests, including a bone-marrow biopsy. When he opened it up and
clicked on the link, the expression on his face was so powerful his
wife pulled out her phone and shot a series of close-ups while he
watched it. Somber and filled with wonder, he looked like a man
receiving a benediction from some awesome higher power. "For
someone of his magnitude and stature, after all that he's been
through, to take thirty seconds out of his day to send me a video and
say 'We got your back,' you have no idea how momentum-building that
to the scandal, Scoggins shrugs it off. "The way I look at it, I
don't know anyone who hasn't told a lie. I still appreciate all that
he's done. Without Lance Armstrong, there wouldn't be a Livestrong
Foundation, and I probably wouldn't be alive."
cancer is a touchy subject with
Armstrong these days. Last summer, about six months after he did the
Oprah show, he put on a fundraiser for a camp for sick kids, just
quietly called a few rich friends and raised much of the camp's
annual budget with a single bike ride, but he never mentioned it to
anyone, and won't talk about it now. Hansen was the first to bring it
up. He wouldn't talk about the videos he makes, either. And he really
didn't want to talk about Jimmy Fowkes, a Stanford student from
Oregon and longtime Livestrong activist who was diagnosed with brain
cancer at thirteen and, after dedicating much of his remaining time
to helping other patients, died in February at the painfully unjust
age of twenty-one. As he approached the end, Fowkes put Armstrong on
a short list of people he wanted to see on his deathbed.
flew to California. Jimmy knew it was going to be the last time they
would see each other. He asked Lance to come tuck him into bed. He
said, "I love you," and Lance said, "I love you,
will not talk about any of this, because he considers it unseemly and
he wants to let Jimmy's parents grieve in peace. But he did allow
himself a tiny heartfelt Facebook tribute on the day Jimmy died. "RIP
Jimmy Fowkes," it read. "You have forever touched my life
as well as millions of others. I will miss you. Jimmystrong…."
in that moment, his critics swarmed, with pitiless, lacerating
comments. "I'll bet he didn't cheat," read one.
a cool afternoon, on
the deck of a little restaurant near his house west of the state
capitol, Armstrong is working on a dark beer. He's wearing the Mellow
cap and insists the word is descriptive. "I go Zen as much as I
can," he says.
realizes that this may not be how he appears. He's the least patient
person he's ever met, in fact, especially when it comes to personal
interactions and confrontations. Which is why, now that he's got
teenagers and needs all the patience he can muster, everything may
turn out to have been for the best.
least he's not hiding anymore, he says. For years, every time he got
asked about doping, the stress kicked in—Oh,
he went on the attack. He was defending himself, his team, his sport,
his foundation, everything all mixed together. Now he has nothing, so
he can say anything he wants.?
it was probably for the best.
switches to a margarita. Crushed ice, please. He hates the cubes.
was getting tired, too. For fifteen years, he was trying to train and
also deal with the rocket ship of success. There was so much
traveling, so many medical conferences, so many events with donors.
"Now I've gone from light speed to a school zone, literally, and
part of me doesn't mind."
some point, he says, you have to be the guy who plays golf five days
Armstrong can't suppress his taste for the provocative. Did Nelson
Mandela really forgive the people who put him in prison for
twenty-seven years, he asks, or did he just say that for public
consumption? He compares himself to Bill Clinton so many times he
finally says he shouldn't compare himself to Bill Clinton, that it
must sound vainglorious—and then switches the comparison to other
legendary names. "People are fine that Michael Jordan was a
jerk, they're fine if Wayne Gretzky was a jerk, but they weren't fine
with me being an asshole. They expected that perfect story."
would also like people to know he really was clean when he came out
of retirement for the 2009 Tour de France. He cleaned up along with
everyone else once the nearly foolproof doping-detection method known
as the "biological passport" came in, which was why the
whole antidoping inquisition was pointless. The problem was already
solved. Before his comeback, he called the infamous doctor Michele
Ferrari, subject of so many doping rumors and investigations, and
asked if he could still win the Tour clean. Ferrari said he had to
run some numbers. Later he called back. "If you're lucky."
antidoping agency accused him of cheating anyway, saying there was a
one-in-a-million chance that Armstrong didn't have transfusions of
his own blood in '09. "Bullshit," he says. "They'll
find out someday, 'cause they'll perfect that transfusion test. And
I'll be the first guy to say 'Use it.' "
orders another margarita. "Keep the same ice, bro. I love
walked down the road to this restaurant. He wouldn't have walked
anywhere before. He damn sure never would have walked a golf course.
And next week, he's off to Hawaii for some family time—zip-lining,
swimming with dolphins. "The three-year-old, dude, she's out of
her mind. She's just like me, that crazy-ass kid. The girl's got
balls you wouldn't believe."
relaxed, he looks around. "This is a great little 'hood, man."
few hours later, I
pay a visit to Livestrong's stylish loft-style headquarters near
Austin's Sixth Street district. Donations have plunged 35 percent
since Armstrong resigned.
my surprise, Doug Ulman sounds like he's ready for Armstrong to come
back to work. "If he gets up in the morning and decides that
being a leader in the cancer community is what he wants to spend his
life doing, then the cancer community and the Livestrong Foundation
would welcome him back."
is news. It will certainly be news to Armstrong, who was just
grumbling about his exile back at the restaurant. Startled, I ask
Ulman if he's serious. "Are you really telling me that if he
walked in that door and said, 'I want to be part of this organization
again, please take me back,' you would say yes?"
looks uncomfortable. "Can I go off the record?"
think in some respects, he's waiting to be invited. And people here
are waiting for him to express to them his authentic passion to be
back. Both are waiting for the other to, like, make a move."
when Ulman agrees to put his statement on the record, he adds another
detail. Not long ago, the foundation held a strategic planning
session where people tossed out radical options to revive their
flagging fortunes. One woman suggested that 2014 should be called the
"Year of Redemption" and Armstrong should be given a desk
in the office and he should come every day and work like everybody
else, stuffing envelopes and making phone calls."
pay a penance?"
say: 'I want to do this.' To say: 'I'll do anything.' "
I pass this message on
to Armstrong a few days later, he is completely thrown, and slows
down to take in the surprise. "That would be the first I ever
heard that," he says, "and that seems awkward."
conversation takes place in a spare mansion loaned by one of his many
millionaire friends, an absurdly lavish place with six garages and a
loft concealed behind a bookshelf. Armstrong stays locked for a
moment. He seems angry or annoyed. "I mean, I've mentioned
numerous times that ultimately I'd love to go back, but nobody's ever
directly said that to me," he finally continues. "So it
seems awkward that it would go from Doug to you back to me. That's a
pretty significant statement."
got married in Armstrong's yard. They worked together at the
foundation during the most hectic years. Just recently, Ulman was
with Armstrong when he said goodbye to Jimmy Fowkes. Armstrong
doesn't understand why this message has to come through an outsider.
He won't let it go.
ever told me that," he says, shaking his head, incredulous.
"Yeah, I don't believe that."
we can also stipulate: The
people who pushed hardest to bring Armstrong down had ugly motives of
their own: Floyd Landis was angry because Armstrong wouldn't hire him
as team manager after his own doping scandal. Tiger Williams wanted
revenge because Armstrong wouldn't let him use the Livestrong logo on
his company's shoe liners. Betsy Andreu wanted to blame someone else
for her husband's own doping. Travis Tygart, the head of the USADA
and the man most directly responsible for bringing him down, openly
despised Armstrong for his lack of faith. "If I personally was
on the brink of death and went through a terrible situation and came
out of that as an atheist," he sniffed to one reporter, "I'd
have no moral constraints." But these voices represent all of
us, who cheered Armstrong on his climb and cheered even louder for
his disgrace, offended by the comeback that reminded us how
aggressive he'd always been. The time for heroes had passed. The war
predicated on lies went sour, and the economy crashed. The fever
dream was over and we knew better now. In the end, that may have been
Armstrong's deepest problem. He kept flaunting his claim to innocence
long after we all knew that none of us would ever be innocent again.
all questions annoy him. What
is the average person supposed to think when he still has houses in
Austin and Aspen?
haven't paid a price? Okay. I mean, I can't talk about the price I've
paid. That doesn't do me any good."
remaining lawsuits—totaling as much as $132 million—are
off-limits, too. "I can't talk about any legal stuff."
he doesn't want to talk about the angry resignation e-mail. "It
was clear that I was gonna be forced out, so yeah, I fired off a
I get a copy?"
not," he says, flashing the steely-eyed stonewall expression you
can see in his infamous deposition of 2005, available from now till
the apocalypse on YouTube. It's intimidating.
you can write what you want, but you're not gonna get it from me.
It's too much."
he will not—will
a single additional detail about the explanations he's given to his
"No. No. I'm
not gonna share conversations with my children. No way."
the old Lance Armstrong, who was never afraid to surge forward
in your face—but
then, suddenly, his forward momentum falters.
moment later, he's apologizing. "Maybe this is a lesson for me.
I mean, there's so much in tone and reaction and reaction time and I
can imagine—I mean, fuck, for twenty years it probably really put
people on their heels, and probably still does. I like to think it's
mellower now, but maybe not."
has gone around the world to personally tell the people he bullied
most that he's sorry. He flew to Rome to apologize to Italian cyclist
Filippo Simeoni, to Paris to apologize to French racer Christophe
Bassons. He apologized to former U. S. Postal Service soigneur Emma
O'Reilly. He even apologized to Betsy Andreu, who was the only one to
rebuff him. "I said, 'I'm ashamed and embarrassed when I
look back on that period. If I saw my son act that way, I'd be
he seems tired and trapped. "Don't we all, when our backs are
against the wall, try to push back or fight or control certain
things?" he says softly. "But this is so far gone, I don't
know what's gonna happen. I can't control what's gonna happen. It's
beyond my control."
stops. "Now I'm whining," he says.
and hit record.
Louis. I'm Lance Armstrong. I got a message from the folks over at
Livestrong telling me about your health situation and current news. I
wanted to send you a video message and let you know I'm thinking
about you and pulling for you. I understand you're seeing Dr. Einhorn
so we know you're seeing the best of the best. Anything I can ever
do, let me know. One more thing, I understand you're a member of the
Navy. Thank you for your service. It's truly appreciated. Hang in
Olvera remembers the exact moment he got that video. He was standing
in an Ikea parking lot in Austin and feeling nervous about starting
additional chemo following his visit a week before to the doctor who
had saved Armstrong, Lawrence Einhorn of the Indiana University
School of Medicine. "That video couldn't have come at a better
time," Olvera says. "I was ecstatic. The idea that despite
his situation, with everything that was going on last year, just to
hear from him, to know that he still cares for the survivors, I was
just really blown away. I'm still blown away. It's an honor to share
how much it meant to me and my family."
problem now is
how to fill his days.
I'm still playing golf five days a week at fifty, my head will
explode," Armstrong says. His restlessness and need for a
paycheck have brought him to Scottsdale, Arizona, to a "man
camp" run by a local cycling coach named Jimmy Riccitello. Nine
masters of the universe in biking togs bustle around a large
Mediterranean kitchen, waiting impatiently for the rain to stop. Most
of them started in sports and ended up on Wall Street and have paid
Lance Armstrong an undisclosed sum to be Lance Armstrong for a few
days. There's one former Olympic wrestler, a couple of regular
Ironman competitors. They're chomping on protein and brimming with
the sun flashes. "Sun's up, guns up!" one guy bellows.
"We're going to ride!"
been doing this for a couple of days now, riding all day and drinking
many shots of Tito's vodka at night. When someone remembers to bring
limes and crushed ice, Armstrong mixes the Lanceritas. There's an
unmistakable element of safari to the whole thing, with Armstrong in
dual roles of hunter and prey—a fellow competitor and also the
Great Beast whose mounted head would look awesome above a rich man's
the trash talk is out of control.
came this close to beating Lance in the first race," says a Wall
Street investment banker named Ken Rideout. "I attacked like a
rabid dog. I had a gap on him."
his phone, Rideout summons up the biking Web site where the race
statistics were automatically uploaded by a wireless device.
calls the guy "Ken Doll" and rolls his eyes. "I won,"
he says flatly.
Rideout teases him about his new orange helmet. "It's like a
traffic cone. I guess now that you're old and retired you want to
is life among the alpha males, where the tournament of egos never
stops. A few minutes later they set out in a pack, riding down the
hills in a tight professional peloton, charging through deep puddles
and icy rain like a single unstoppable machine.
a few miles, a group of college kids joins the pack. Armstrong
approaches them at the next stop. "Hi, I'm Lance." He gets
all their names and poses for pictures, grins all around.
ride gets hard at the end, in the steep hills that lead back up to
the mansion. A couple of the guys grab on to the follow car. "I
don't have it in the tank," one says. "Too much vodka."
pulls in first. "I'm the winner of the man camp! Lance, will you
clean and hose my bike for me?"
the wireless data trackers will report that Armstrong won by four
seconds. And that's even with being delayed awhile when a rock hit
him pretty good. Blood is flowing from his hand in a steady stream. A
towel is soaked. That can't pass without comment.Somebody has
to take credit.
rises to the occasion. "I hurt Lance Armstrong! I broke him! I
made him bleed!"
whole group gathers around in a pack, drawn by the blood. It just
gonna fucking pass out," one guy says.
we could cook up a big batch of Crybaby Soup," says another.
could go for bandages, of course. But the famous Armstrong blood, the
subject of so many celebrations and investigations, is flowing out
right there in front of them, and nobody wants to miss the moment.
Lance himself looks at the wound in wonder. In all the years, in all
the tight races against the world's best, in all the crashes in the
Alps, he's never bled like this, he says. This excites the sharks
even more. They've made history! Come to think of it, wouldn't this
be a splendid opportunity for some photographs? And doesn't everyone
want to crowd into the shot? Don't we all want to be able to say,
even if it's just a joke to our friends, I
hurt Lance Armstrong, I made him bleed?That's
some big game right there. And just look how docile he is, how quiet
he's gotten, how willingly he poses, the hint of blood sacrifice
having become the meaning of this little ritual, the essence of this
whole mean-spirited era when so many real villains have gone
unpunished, with Lance Armstrong as everybody's trophy.
at last, Armstrong holds up his hand to show that the bleeding has
stopped. "I think," he says, "that I just finally ran
out of blood."