When I think of Lance Armstrong I think of three things, cycling, the Tour de France and doping.
I used to love cycling when I was younger and was out on my bike every night after school. I never really thought of it as a hobby though – just something fun to do. Eventually as I grew older I found other interests, music and dance in particular, so my passion for cycling dwindled away at that point. Now I’m out of education and have been settled in a job for the past few years I have started to get more interested in it again. In the summer of 2015 I even got to witness first hand the excitement of the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris and even though it was pouring with rain, it was still so exhilarating and amazing to watch. When watching a race like that first hand, you notice the true passion these riders have for their sport. Cycling is their life.
The program, which held its premiere at the BFI London Film Festival last night, tells the story of Lance Armstrong, his rise to glory and the doping scandal that engulfed his highly successful career. Based on the book, Seven Deadly Sins by David Walsh, Chief Sports Writer of The Sunday Times it looks at the relationship between these two characters and provides an account of the events that took place leading up to and post his confession on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2013.
In a Q&A with the cast and director, after watching the film it was interesting to hear how David Walsh had spoken to people after they had watched various screenings of the film to discover their reactions to find them somewhat having empathy with Lance. This may have something to do with the cancer, Walsh stated, but as was said in the film, he was ultimately using his disease as a shield. It is at this point I should mention that of course cancer is the most terrible of diseases and of course I do sympathise as what he must have gone through would have been one of the most horrific times of his life. Ultimately his career was about doping and whilst I did not feel the empathy with Lance, I did feel it for David. It was admirable to hear how he stuck with his beliefs even though no one else believed him.
I found this film difficult to watch. Despite some mixed reviews coming out today, I have no doubt that it was an enjoyable film – I can tell I enjoy a film when I don’t feel like I’m clock watching at all. There were a few laughs shared and I definitely think Chris O’Dowd playing David Walsh and Ben Foster playing Lance Armstrong are what made the film. To be honest though, I felt a bit flat coming out of it. I initially thought it was in regard to how I felt about the responses the director, Stephen Frears, was providing to his questions. It felt as though he had made the movie because he felt like it needed to be made and wanted to get there first. I felt frustrated by his responses and felt that the film and the story, deserved so much more than that. This one man had cheated his way to the top SEVEN times without intense questioning. I think it was at this point that I really felt my empathy for David Walsh. I didn’t really feel anything about Lance when the stories were breaking in the news at the time. I didn’t know enough about the sport to pass judgement – I just knew it was wrong. To witness his portrayal by Foster though, to witness his arrogance and his greed to win, made me feel disappointed and well, heartbroken really. Cycling is a sport, it should be enjoyed by those who have a passion for it and whilst I think Lance’s career started with that passion, he clearly lost that when his greed for the win took over.
The Program is in cinemas now. A must for any cyclist enthusiast!