One of Lance Armstrong's strongest allies has written an open letter of apology to Greg LeMond for his part in the gossip campaign that undermined LeMond as America's greatest ever-cyclist, in order to make Armstrong seem all the greater.
Mark McKinnon, one of the most powerful PR men in the USA and a former political adviser to George W Bush, published his open letter on the Daily Beast website.
It's a breathtakingly honest piece of writing from one of the world's slipperiest spin doctors, in which McKinnon speaks of how LeMond was belittled by Armstrong and the people around him: "For years your bright light was darkened by a blizzard of lies, cheating and innuendo... I apologise for being complicit in the lies."
LeMond, now a Eurosport expert analyst, has said in the past that his comments about Armstrong's doping had led to him being "vilified", and that Armstrong "spent 10 years trying to destroy me". Part of that campaign against LeMond saw the three-times Tour de France winner's bike brand scrapped under pressure from Armstrong camp.
The inference from McKinnon's letter is that he is accepting a share of responsibility in such skulduggery - and many will feel that it's not before time.
McKinnon's letter then goes on to talk about LeMond's life and career in glowing and sympathetic terms, talking about the shotgun accident that nearly killed him - yet which somehow failed to stop him becoming one of the all-time greats... and then apologising for failing to recognise that until now.
Lance won’t say it but I will. I apologize.
I believed in Lance’s lie. My wife had a very deadly form of cancer, and his story was a powerful elixir that helped us get through it. We called Annie “Lance Armstrong in a skirt.”
And then for 10 years I served on the board of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, later the Livestrong Foundation, which did—and still does—truly great and innovative work for those living with and through cancer.
But through all of those years, I was complicit in pushing the myth. And all I really knew about you was what I heard through Lance, Inc. I don’t have to tell you it was not flattering.
Well, now that the lie has been exposed, I’ve taken the time I should have taken long ago to learn more about you.
I watched ESPN’s terrific 30 For 30 documentary about you and French cyclist Bernard Hinault, Slaying the Badger. It is a remarkable account of how you ultimately won the Tour de France, but had to suffer huge indignities heaped upon you by your teammates and coaches, whose loyalties continue to lay with Hinault, who was a popular Tour winner and captain of the team, even after you had demonstrated you were clearly the stronger rider.
It is tradition in the Tour that the strongest rider is supported by the rest of the team. In 1985, you emerged as the stronger rider, but were held back to let Hinault win. So you really deserved to have won four tours.
After you won your first Tour in 1986, you miraculously survived a hunting accident that to this day has left more than 50 pellets of lead riddled throughout your body. Despite that near-death experience, two years later you won your second Tour in the closest and most miraculous finish ever, and then the next year a third. After that your strength began to fall off, but now we know that was likely exacerbated and accelerated by poisoning from the lead in your body.
And we now know that while others were artificially enhancing their strength, you refused. In fact, take away the doping, the hunting accident, and the race you gave up for Hinault, you probably would have won more Tours than any rider ever, legally or illegally.
I know now you suffered from sexual abuse as a child, and that you started a foundation to help others deal with the horrors of such an experience.
I met you briefly in Mexico about a year ago. We were at the same conference. You and your wife, Kathy, and a son, I believe, sat in the front row during some remarks I delivered. I had an “uh oh” moment when I saw you. But you came up to me afterward and were very gracious and kind. You did say you wanted to talk. As there was a dinner for the conference that night, I suggested we meet then.
Unfortunately, one of your children had a medical emergency and you were called away. But Kathy did show up, and for a couple of hours leaned on me pretty good. But not unfairly.
I didn’t get to talk to you that night. I hope maybe someday I will.
But in the meantime, here is what I want to say to you.
You are the undisputed greatest American bike rider ever, and among the greatest cyclists of all time.
But more than that, you are a Hall of Fame Survivor. First ballot. You suffered through pain, lies, humiliation, bankruptcy, embarrassment, serious injury, health problems, and more.
For years your bright light was darkened by a blizzard of lies, cheating and innuendo.
And despite all this, from all the objective accounts that I’ve now read about you, unlike Lance, you are honest, humble and kind.
For all this, and more, I say to all the people suffering with and through cancer, or any other disease or fight, if you want a role model for inspiration, you should look to a true hero, Greg LeMond.
- Sports & Recreation
- Lance Armstrong
- Greg LeMond
- Mark McKinnon
- Bernard Hinault