Yesterday, the factions of the internet that have strong opinions about Lance Armstrong were aflutter after Outside magazine published an essay penned by Mike Anderson, a one-time member of Lance Armstrong's inner circle. It's a doozy, and we encourage you to read the whole thing. But in the interest of disseminating hearsay gossip about about mean athletes, and about Lance Armstrong in particular, we thought we'd grab some of the more ethically jarring moments from life as a member of Armstrong's entourage.
For a lot of people, the headline will be the steroids stuff. There's some steroids stuff, sure—Anderson said he found Androstenedione in Armstrong's medicine cabinet and that he "didn't approve"—but there's juicier stuff too, stuff which has nothing to do with the demonstrably common practice of abusing outlawed drugs to further a cycling career. Stuff that has more to do with the less common practices of, say, recklessly burning your friends and family when they cross you, competing in underground cycling races for under-the-table cash, muttering oaths about the events staged to raise funds for your famous charity, and suing your former friend and personal assistant so insistently he has to move to New Zealand to start a new life.
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By way of introduction, Anderson writes of the time when he joined Armstrong's staff and the eventual fallout:
At that time, we were friends who had often been on mountain-bike rides together, and he had made a written and verbal commitment to finance my dream of opening an Austin bike shop once my work with him was done [...] He reneged on the promise about the bike shop and started attacking me, personally and professionally, in a way that ruined my job prospects in Austin. I ended up moving my family to New Zealand to start a new life.
Of a 17-year old Lance and his first sponsor, Jim Hoyt:
One early legend concerned an abandoned car, an IROC-Z28 owned by Armstrong but cosigned for by Hoyt and registered under Hoyt's name. Armstrong had reportedly ditched the car and the passengers—his friends—while fleeing from the police one night, and he refused to apologize to Hoyt, which damaged their relationship for years.
Sadly, Anderson doesn't expand upon why, exactly, a 17-year old Armstrong was fleeing a police pursuit.
A mutual friend of Anderson and Armstrong (who landscaped some of Armstrong's properties) was paid in cash. The implication, here and elsewhere, is that Armstrong came home from European tours with boatloads of income that went unreported:
He said Armstrong would often return from Europe with money stuffed into his pants [...] The cash came from the post-Tour races that are an important part of the cycling culture in Europe, because they allow people in smaller French towns, or outside France altogether, to see pros racing on their local roads. All a rider had to do was show up, race for a while, and collect payment, which was made under the table. Russey told me how much it freaked him out to be handed tens of thousands of dollars in bills.
Armstrong won the 2003 Tour de France:
After the win, he returned to Austin for a repeat of the previous off-season menu of training, traveling, sponsorship, and Livestrong obligations, which sometimes seemed to get on his nerves. (At one Livestrong event where he had to speak, I heard him mutter under his breath: "I hate these fucking things.")
He'd waged a war against Kristin and her dad over money and real estate during the divorce. He'd told me he would "put LeMond out of business"—referring to Greg LeMond's bike business with Trek—because of LeMond's public statements about his association with Ferrari. He'd ostracized former teammates who'd faithfully served him, but who had aspirations of their own and had gone to other teams.
Other things that might happen when you cross Lance Armstrong: after Betsy Andreu gave a deposition saying that she and her husband had heard Armstrong tell doctors he'd used a cocktail of banned drugs, she gave an interview in which,
Strickland asked her what it was like to be blasted for speaking honestly. "What's the upside been, going up against Lance?" she said. "To be publicly and privately portrayed as an ugly, obese, jealous, obsessed, hateful, crazed bitch?" She pointed out that crossing Armstrong wasn't exactly good for her husband's career arc in bike racing-she believes he lost his 2006 job as team director for Toyota-United because of the controversy surrounding their statements.
The denouement of Anderson's relationship with Armstrong, and the reason for the article:
At this point, I felt like I was being coerced into signing the document. By then, Russey had called me to say that Armstrong, in a fury, had told him I'd better sign if I ever wanted to work in the bike industry again. On the advice of a friend, I spoke to a lawyer to determine what rights I had. I didn't think that negotiating with Armstrong would go anywhere, so my lawyer wrote a letter asking him to honor his original offer. If he did, I could walk away, bruised but still moving forward. Instead, Armstrong dug in.
Or, as Bill Stapelton aptly put it, he launched World War III, which went by the same script I'd witnessed with the others. Stapleton asked my lawyer for a settlement proposal, which we promptly provided and was stamped up top with the word CONFIDENTIAL. This was part of the normal routine for settling disputes like these.
The next day, Armstrong slapped us in the face by leaking the terms of the proposal to the media. Stapleton falsely referred to me as a landscaper. Tim Herman (one of Armstrong's army of lawyers) called me a dogsbody and described my actions as a shakedown.
There are other intersting details in there—you may need to read the full litany to get a sense for the creeping inhumanity that comes from being personal assistant to a famous athlete—but a lot of it confirms what many had already suspected: like many others in the ranks of best-ever in their sport, Lance Armstrong can be a tremendous asshole. It may make you think a little differently of arguments like that made by Sally Jenkins, who wrote this week, "There's nothing that I can learn about him short of murder that would alter my opinion [that Lance Armstrong is a good man]." Then again there are no revelations of murder, so maybe not; "My Life With Lance Armstrong" can read, at times, like the story of a prudish sensibility violated by someone used to bending rules.
Seeing as how many of Anderson's revelations concentrate on Armstrong's inclination to personally and professionally detstroy those who speak poorly about him in public, we have a word of advice: New Zealand is not far enough away to escape the wrath of Lance. Try Mars, they have robots there now.
My Life With Lance Armstrong [Outside]