Mike Lampe, 50, of Elkridge, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease at 32, says his view of Armstrong hasn’t diminished at all in the wake of USADA’s report. If anything, Lampe says, the report made him feel worse for Armstrong, who he feels is being persecuted by the agency. That’s not to say Lampe believes Armstrong won his cycling titles without chemical assistance.
“I wasn’t so naïve that I didn’t have an inkling that he was probably hedging,” Lampe said. “Everybody in that sport cheats, if you want to call it cheating. He was still the best; he was beating everybody else who was cheating. And he’s still a miracle with respect to beating cancer and all he has gone through. Look at what he has done with his altruistic work: That is something to be admired. He had the platform, and not everybody who has the platform takes advantage of it.”
The allegations weigh more heavily on Lennie Phillips, 39, of Kensington, who has been troubled ever since Armstrong dropped his fight against USADA’s charges in August.
“When you stop, it kind of makes you look guilty,” said Phillips, also a cancer survivor. “If he’s guilty, it’s sad to see. He has disappointed a lot of fans. He has done so much for the cancer community. It’s a shame to see all the good things he has done be tarnished by what he did in racing. Whether they go hand in hand — well, that’s for each person to decide.”
Over the 15 months that author Daniel Coyle spent in Spain researching his 2005 book, “Lance Armstrong’s War.” He concluded there were two distinct faces of the sporting icon.
“There was the way we perceived him in public, and the way he operated inside the sport,” said Coyle, who co-authored cyclist Tyler Hamilton’s recent doping confessional, “The Secret Race.” “All of his teammates regarded the world’s opinion about Lance with a great deal of puzzlement and bemusement. The guy the world saw was not the guy they saw. There was this perception gap.”
What created that gap, Coyle believes, was Armstrong’s triumph over cancer after being given just a 40 percent chance of surviving upon being diagnosed in October 1996.
“The strongest drug in all of this is Lance’s story: His comeback from cancer to win the hardest event in the world,” Coyle said. “The power of that story drove everything. And he was skilled at telling it. He is really good at controlling a narrative, and he understands how to connect and communicate. He is brilliant at that.”