Donald Rumsfeld once talked about there being known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. Over the last couple of days Lance Armstrong finally confirmed he did drugs and the drugs DID work. He couldn’t have done it without them. However in the previous 15 years he has denied, denied, denied cheating his way to win 7 Tours. The Slovene philosopher Slavoj Zizek would have called this refusal to admit an ‘unknown known’, which can be explained as ‘the disavowed beliefs, suppositions and obscene practices we pretend not to know about’. Some might even argue that the unknown known extended far beyond Armstrong and his camp, going deep into the cycling world at large. That’s a discussion for another day.
A few non-cycling friends have asked me what I think of all this, and there are one or two issues I have related to Armstrong’s cheating and his pathological lying.
The sport of professional cycling has been suffering for years due to claims of doping. Some of the biggest names in the peleton have been busted for it. The media coverage surrounding the absurd chain of events leading Contador’s ban or Frank Schleck’s positive pales next to the Armstrong circus. 99% of the population have no interest in cycling, but they all know it is a sport riddled with dopes and doping. Sponsor confidence is waning.
And some of the pundits who for years tried to take Armstrong down smell blood (doping) again and the hounds have fresh targets. History hasn’t changed and the new boss is facing the same accusations as the old one. Time will tell if these claims are correct, or not, but today’s generation of cyclists, male and female, will always ride in the slipstream of their predecessors. And no matter how fast they ride they will never escape the cynicism and doubt of public and press.
It is clear that things need to change if cycling is to survive and there are many people working toward this.
They may already be too late.