Downhill ride by Richard jones

programA look at The Program (M)…

LANCE Armstrong is perhaps the greatest drug cheat world sport has ever known.

Of course seven-time Tour de France cycling champion Armstrong made his now notorious 2012 confession on The Oprah Winfrey Show although his cheating had been chronicled well beforehand by Sunday Times journalist David Walsh.

Director Stephen Frears uses Walsh in his film. He’s played by the very affable Chris O’Dowd while Ben Foster takes on the role of Armstrong.

The intricate ways in which Armstrong, his cycling team members and their medical advisers covered up their doping is astonishing.

Not only were blood transfusions used to conceal the presence of drugs in Armstrong’s and his teammates’ bodies the Tour winner himself resorted to open bullying of anyone who he thought might spill the beans.

Of course, drug cheating was an open secret throughout the cycling world through the mid to late Noughties. And, it has to be said, the use of performance-enhancing drugs wasn’t just confined to Armstrong’s team.

It’s just that Armstrong was by far the pre-eminent person in the sport.

Frears has used the screaming mountain descents as a statement about what happened to Armstrong. They give the riders, accelerating around bends and continuing downhill at 80 kmh, a sense of exultation.

But it’s about the only exultation afforded to Armstrong. And even though I’ve sat on the edge of my lounge chair for many, many southern winters watching these descents I’m constantly amazed at the infrequency of crashes.

When there are a few spectacular prangs, idiot spectators are often to blame. Particularly when the riders reach a little town or village at the foot of the descent and the bikes are still really moving.

Anyway, as the movie gradually unfolds Armstrong turns on fellow Tour de France riders, journalists and even some of his own cycling team’s staffers. Once outed Armstrong wasn’t about to go quietly into the night.

I must say as the seven-time Tour winner Foster is okay, but not terrifically believable, as Armstrong.

He doesn’t seem to exude the ever-present sense of perfection – not to mention satisfaction, perhaps even smugness – the American seemed to exude during his period of domination.

That said O’Dowd does the shunned journo bit quite well. Well worth a look this movie, more so if you’re a sports nut like me and one for whom the Tour is a three-week must-see every southern winter.

 

 

 

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