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Why Lance Armstrong’s cheating doesn’t seem to matter to many in the cycling world – The Irish Times

On the opening day of this year’s Tour de France, Lance Armstrong was deep in his podcast analyzing Stage One when his co-host George Hincapie’s cell phone rang. Mark Cavendish was on the phone. He was on the Astana-Qasaqstan team bus in Italy. Cavendish himself, who had suffered heatstroke and vomited on the way to Rimini. When he called to tell them what had happened, he told them he had survived the ordeal and would continue.

“I’ll call you back,” Hincapie said as he ended the conversation, suggesting that he and “Manx Missile” were best friends.

“It’s incredibly cool,” Armstrong said, without a hint of irony or a smile, expressing his pride in having the series’ main character contribute live to their show.

That’s one way to put it. Another way is to wonder why any current cyclist would want to associate with the greatest cheater in the history of the sport. Or to be friends with Hincapie, another confessed doper during his “glory” years as Mr. LiveStrong’s most trusted servant, a consultant once sent to Armstrong’s Girona apartment to make sure he didn’t leave any steroid paraphernalia lying around. A fixer in and out of the peloton. Of course, any clean entrant in the race wouldn’t lend his reputation and contemporary fame to these two disgusting cheaters from the recent past.

Just four days later, as the dastardly duo recorded their response to Stage Five, Hincapie’s phone rang again. This time, it was Cavendish’s wife, Peta, calling from a car near the finish line at St-Vulbas, where her husband had previously raced to a record-breaking 35th win. With the couple’s children making a noise in the background, he recounted how the family had spent the memorable day and accepted the congratulations of the presenters. After hanging up, Armstrong boasted to his audience that he had pressured Hincapie to text Cav and Peta, and had included one of them in the segment. Now Hincapie had called, and Lance was filled with a sense of pride, like a man still thrilled to discover that he had a strangely hypnotic effect on so many in the sport he had tarnished.

A fact that was highlighted when Bradley Wiggins entered the studio to work on Stage Nine. The man who won the 2012 Tour for Team Sky, the cleanest, purest, most drug-free, cheat-resistant team in cycling, flew to Colorado specifically to hang out with Armstrong and Hincapie. We know this because the merry pranksters posted a video of themselves picking him up from the airport with a sign that said “Sir Wiggo.”

Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie at a press conference ahead of the 2010 Tour of California. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Given that the Englishman’s victory was, quite seriously, the result of David Brailsford’s philosophy of marginal gain (putting pineapple juice in water to make it drinkable!) and that the vast majority of Lance’s victories were EPO-related (Hincapie, his teammates and himself nicknamed it “Po” and “Edgar Allen”), why would Wiggins want to come and kiss his rings?

So what prompted Matteo Jorgenson, arguably the most promising young American rider in this year’s Tour, to come on the podcast from the Team Visma-Lease a Bike hotel after the seventh stage to joke cheerfully with the old crooks?

Cyclists aren’t the only ones with short memories. This is the first summer that Armstrong’s podcast, The Move, has officially aired on Peacock, the streaming service owned by NBC, home of the Tour de France on American television. He’s officially back in the mainstream, just a decade after his not-quite-mea-culpa interview with Oprah Winfrey. He’s faked his way into the record books, scamming the U.S. Postal Service (funded by American taxpayers) out of millions of dollars, all of which is now forgotten.

In addition to its growing relationship with NBC, the podcast has its own corporate sponsors. Wahoo, Momentous, Ketone-IQ and Roka are all very happy to have Armstrong, a name synonymous with lies, read testimonials about the quality of their brands. These so-called serious companies in the cycling and fitness industries are proud to be associated with a production that features guests like Johan Bruyneel, who was a team director at the US Postal Service and a cheat de mission when he “won” eight out of nine Tours, a man who received a lifetime ban from the sport.

Lance Armstrong gives his version of events to Oprah Winfrey during a celebrity interview in 2014. Photo: George Burns/Oprah Winfrey Network via Getty Images

NBC may argue that including The Move in its coverage was a smart move. Who better to examine the current Tour, which only the truly pure believe is clean, than two of the dirtiest riders ever and one of their peers?

But the network already has a doping expert on its live television broadcast team. One of Armstrong’s former teammates, Christian Vande Velde, has worked with the infamous Dr Michele Ferrari and has used EPO, cortisone, human growth hormone and testosterone patches. He shares his expertise every day. Amusingly, the one thing Vande Velde never touches on during his commentary is his extensive knowledge of drugs and how they could shatter Nairo Quintana’s record time on the Col du Galibier last week. As if.

In February 2009, Paul Kimmage, the perennial scourge of cycling cheaters, appeared at a press conference ahead of the Tour of California and famously asked the then-still-canonized Armstrong, “What is it about these cheaters that you admire so much?” The question that should now be asked of Cavendish, Wiggins, NBC, Jorgenson and many others.