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Steve Magness on Lance Armstrong

I just finished reading an fantastic article on Lance Armstrong that was written by my friend Steve Magness. Steve spent a few years as assistant coach to Alberto Salazar at the Nike facility in Oregon, and in the process had the opportunity to interact directly with Armstrong while he was in triathlon training (they were helping out with the run portion; Steve has since left Nike is now track and XC coach at the University of Houston). Steve’s article is remarkably candid and honest, and is very much worth a read – I particularly like this passage:

“This past fall the college cross country team I coach was preparing for a race in Austin, Texas. I got the word that Lance would be competing the same race. It briefly crossed my mind to take my athletes over to meet Lance, giving me bonus points for being the “cool” coach who knew someone insanely famous. Instead, in our pre race huddle, I simply told my team, “Lance Armstrong is in your race. Beat him. He cheated and took drugs and you guys are doing it the right way. Go beat someone who took EPO.”

It doesn’t matter how famous someone is or what success they achieved. For these college kids, it was about doing things the right way and this was an opportunity to teach that to them. The lesson is not to be mesmerized by anyone. At the end of the race, there were no pictures or autographs with Lance, but rather talk about beating him, kicking him down in the last 100 meters, and a surprising lack of Livestrong gear for the rest of the season.”

To read the full article, head over to

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. Simon Taylor says:

    An interesting article but one that reminds me of many I have read before right after a new doper is exposed. There seems to be this holier-than-thou attitude in all sports where people stand back aghast, pointing at the perpetrator and hysterically claiming that their sport is clean. Footballers (European and American) seem to employ this tactic a lot, while at the same time doing the minimal amount of testing to give the impression that their discipline is clean. As for athletics, remember Marion Jones and Ben Johnson. Where they really outliers? No, because retroactive testing of all the samples in Johnson’s race showed a majority of finishers where on something. I am starting to believe now that in this day and age, if an athlete is performing way above the rest of the field, who are themselves the elite of the elite, then he or she is on the special sauce.

  2. Eric Narcisi says:

    I think that’s the right way to present it to the kids.

  3. I can only applaude Steve’s reaction.

    Finally this criminal is caught. If I could sue him I would do so. For stealing my life time. I followed every Tour since this historic victory of Greg LeMond over Laurent Fignon on the last stage in 1989. I quit watching it when the entire doping system around Jan Ulrich was exposed here in Germany. University medical faculty was involved! And we’re not talking former East-Germany. We all expected that doping occurs but the real extent was beyond my imagination.

    Nowadays I do not watch any freak shows like the Olympics or the Tour anymore.

    • vitor roma says:

      Dude, if you believe that any of the first 30 guys to cross the finish line in the Tour i clean, you are very, very naive.

  4. I am completely disappointed with Lance. I raced bikes back in the late ’70’s, and my heroes were Eddy Merckx and then Greg LeMond. When Lance came along he was an inspiring story; cancer survivor, primo athlete who won “drug-free” in pro cycling during the drug scandals. Too bad he could not have been satisfied with “just” his amazing recovery from cancer. That alone would have made him a star. But the need for our generation to “max out” everything in life drives athletes to cheat to be stellar instead of just great. A great pity, instead. I don’t follow pro cycling anymore. I know it’s not the only sport with doping, but having participated in my youth, it hits closer to home for me.

    • Andrew Lee says:

      I was a bike racer in the ’80s, and followed bike racing from the early ’80s until a few years ago. Doping has always been present in cycling going back to the 1800s. Doping wasn’t illegal for all pro bike races until 1965. I was so ingrained in the sport by then (by the 1930s, the Tour de France rule book reminded riders that the race organizers will not provide the drugs for them), and testing so insufficient, that riders kept doing as they always did… and so it continues to today. By the way, your hero, the all time great Eddy Merckx, tested positive 3 times.

      Wikipedia has an interesting history of doping in cycling:

  5. vitor roma says:

    I can’t understand people are so butthurt about this, all top 20 cycling guys are high on PEDs, they are an extremely competitive bunch.

    Lance didn’t have any special advantage over them, they were all in the same level field.

    What people will rage about next? Mister Universe winner roiding?

    • I think part of the outrage is due to how Lance savaged and destroyed anyone who even hinted that Lance was not racing clean. If you cheat and get caught, ‘fess up and move on. But Lance had the money and the power to intimidate anyone who might have known what he was up to, and ended a lot of people’s careers in his campaign to “stay clean”.

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