Local bike shop owners have mixed feeling about Lance Armstrong

January 18, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN |
  • In this Aug. 25, 2012, file photo, Lance Armstrong considers a question from a reporter after his second-place finish in the Power of Four mountain bicycle race at the base of Aspen Mountain in Aspen, Colo. Armstrong confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France cycling race during a taped interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, reversing more than a decade of denial.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Scott Gordon, owner of River City Cycles, a bicycle shop in Williamsport, still has a picture of Lance Armstrong on his wall, and despite the cyclist’s recent confession that he used performance-enhancing drugs, Gordon has no plans to take it down.

“I don’t condone his drug use, but I still admire his work ethic,” he said. “Even if you take steroids, you can’t sit on your couch for six weeks and then race. You still have to work hard.”

Gordon, however, did not defend Armstrong’s character, showing very mixed feelings about the situation.

“The names he called people, how he bullied people, how he sued people, I truthfully don’t know how he can wake up and look at himself in the mirror,” he said. “That’s disgusting. He gained fame and fortune by lying and cheating.”

The seven-time Tour de France winner admitted his use of performance-enhancing drugs in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the first part of which aired on her network Thursday night. The admission came after denying the charges for more than 13 years.

Hagerstown-based Hub City Cycles owner Mike Mittel said that he was also a fan of Armstrong and expressed his disappointment.

“We in the cycling community had a lot of faith in him, and he’s got a lot of apologies to make,” he said. “You really feel disappointed that somebody has been lying and deceiving the American people that really believed in him.”

Mittel also criticized the way Armstrong reacted to people accusing him of using drugs.

“He was just trying to set himself up and manipulate things to his favor, but when the facts were presented, he was doping,” he said. “He’s done a lot for bringing cancer to the forefront, helping out with research, but we’re not sure if there’s anything hidden there.”

In August, Armstrong gave up his fight against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which stripped him of his Tour de France titles.

Despite cheating, Mittel and Gordon both agreed that to win the title cyclists had to cheat.

“To be in the top 20 riders of the Tour de France, my feeling is that doping is prevalent,” Mittel said. “We in the cycling community understand that and know what’s going on, so to say that the other ones that were standing on the podium were not doping is very questionable.”

Gordon added that Armstrong’s admission will at least raise awareness to the amount of cheating that occurs in cycling.

“I’ve raced against guys that were busted for cheating, so hopefully it’s going to make it a much cleaner sport,” he said. “If he would’ve raced those seven Tour de Frances and nobody took drugs across the board, I still say he would have been a top contender. He’s an unbelievable athlete regardless.”

Armstrong gained popularity not just for his Tour de France titles but for the fact that he survived testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs, abdomen, and brain before his string of consecutive wins. He also started a foundation, Livestrong, to support cancer victims and raised around $500 million for it, according to some reports.

Both bike shop owners acknowledged what Armstrong did for cancer victims and cancer research. They also mentioned that he popularized the sport of cycling, but both also said that the scandal would not ruin the sport for those who truly enjoy it.

“To some people it’s going to tarnish the sport of cycling, but I think in the long run it’s not going to hurt cycling for those who like to go out and recreate,” Mittel said.

Gordon added that cycling exists beyond Armstrong.

“Right now the cycling world is turned upside down because everything you see is Lance Armstrong while there are races all over the world, and I don’t know who’s in them,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over, he’s put it out there and put this thing to rest, and hopefully the sport can rebuild to what it used to be.”

The second part of Armstrong’s interview with Winfrey was scheduled to air Friday night at 9 p.m. on her network.

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