Whither Virenque?

Paris, August 22, 2070 The French newspaper L’Equipe announced today that it had won its lawsuit against the estate of Lance Armstrong and will have his body exhumed to search for evidence of illegal drug use.

Scroll down for Barry Allen’s amusing take on the future; you’ll have to make your way through a lot of indignation (mock and real) directed toward the French.

One writer asks why Virenque, a rider who was suspended for doping, is lionized by the French while Armstrong is the target of their rancor. It’s a generalization, but as generalizations go it’s not far off the mark. Why? Because Armstrong, from the point of view of European fans, isn’t all that…human.

Anyone in the US who knows of Armstrong knows The Story. The promising career cut short by cancer, the comeback, and the domination of Le Tour. It’s risen to the level of sporting myth, and those who buy into the myth brook no criticism of their guy (and I’ve gotten some nasty responses when I’ve mentioned Lance in a less-than-favorable light), and look down on riders like Virenque who get results, but are tainted by past scandal.

The Armstrong reality is a lot more complicated, of course. Dan Coyle comes closest to describing it in Lance Armstrong’s War; to those who don’t buy into the myth or who see the product of millions of dollars of marketing, he just doesn’t appear to be real.

I think that’s essentially what many European fans like about Virenque and others who have succeeded, but doped. Those riders are real people, with flaws and all, who represent the gritty, tough, blue collar nature of their sport. And there’s a fundamental kind of respect for that, even in light of failings that American fans tend to look down upon.

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