Our sectors

We treat all personal data in accordance with our privacy policy.
Show Site Navigation

Lance Armstrong was brave, stupid and obstinate – not much has changed

David Standard, former GB rider, rode with a young Lance Armstrong

Cyclists competing in an event
Related Areas of Practice:
David joined Leigh Day in 2011 and is responsible for all marketing, business development and client care across the firm.
Like many children who began cycling in the 1970’s, I was the offspring of a post-war dreamer. My father’s egalitarian ideals met by the clarion calls of the local cycling clubs of the 40’s and 50’s. His love of this glorious sport ensured that when my time came I would spend every weekend on the bike.

By the age of 18, in July 1989, those years of cycling saw me selected to ride for Great Britain at the Junior World Championships in Moscow. My dreams of cycling stardom had begun to be made real.

The road race was held on the Olympic Cycling Circuit, built for the 1980 Moscow Olympics in the Krylatskoye district of Moscow. A frustrating circuit it would give no respite with just constant undulation.

Alongside me on the start line was a young brash American who had decided to forgo Triathlon to try his hand at cycling, in this his first international event.

Alongside Lance Armstrong were the mighty East Germans and Russians who dominated amateur cycling at that time. Denied the chance to ride professionally they would not make their mark until the 1990’s as would their state sponsored drug program, which would serve as a template for the young Texan.

Lance attacked from the start, displaying no strategy; he just went off on his own. Brave, impulsive, stupid but, according to the GB team’s coach Doug Dailey MBE, he was by far the most aggressive rider in the race and the US coaches expected much from him.

Andrew Roche who would go on to ride with Mark Cavendish as fellow Manxmen in the Commonwealth Games remembers chasing after Lance, riding just 500 metres behind him for a lap, but every time young Lance looked back he just went harder instead of working with Andy, his obstinacy leading him to the idiotic.

Lance would eventually finish 17th and I wouldn’t, a crash ending my rainbow jersey dream. Patrick Vetsch, a Swiss rider who won the Points race on the track, also won the road race. A huge achievement but his lack of palmarès since those wins speaks of great promise unfulfilled.

Should we ever have dreamed? It has become clear that there was systematic state sponsored doping of athletes in the former communist countries.

I can’t say how widespread drugs were at that junior level. I know we were one step away from having to do what was necessary at that time to succeed. I knew that I would have to take drugs to reach the dizzying heights I dreamed of. I didn’t.

As a clean rider looking back to that time, you realise the frustrated dreams of youth, stolen careers and opportunities. It wasn’t a ‘level playing field’ as the supposedly contrite Armstrong described. Riders weren’t ‘all doing it’, only the cheats were.

Many greater cyclists than Lance have come into the sport, only to depart as they saw what it took to win.

Now Lance has confessed some, we need to know it all.

When did he start doping and who supported him? The whole house of cards that supported Lance and others to dope in cycling, and other sports, must fall so that a more solid structure can be built to protect the dreams of the young as well as the reputations of hardened pros who should welcome the chance to speak on the subject.

The Independent Commission into the UCI must be given full reign to turn every stone to ensure those presiding over the sport are as clean, in thought and deed, as the riders riding it.

There was cycling before Lance and there will be cycling after Lance.

This article is recreated in full by permission of The Times newspaper. It was originally published on 19 January 2013.

Share this page: Print this page

Let us call you back at a convenient time

We treat all personal data in accordance with our privacy policy.

To discuss your case

    More information