Throughout his seven Tour de France victories, Lance Armstrong earned adulation from around the world. And why not? He came back from cancer and transformed himself from a middle-of-the-pack racer to the best cyclist the world has ever seen.
Not surprisingly, his success fuelled whispers of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. Books and magazine articles have been written alleging his transgressions and several high profile legal battles have ensued. It doesn’t matter how many times he has denied the rumours. And it doesn’t matter which authority has come to his defence. People are inclined to either believe the worst or put an asterix next to his achievements.
And then along came Twitter.
And how does the micro-blog social network help him? Let me count the ways.
Armstrong has been on Twitter for several months now and has become one of the most followed people on the network. Twitter allows him to communicate instantly several times a day to his nearly half a million ‘followers.’ So when he recently crashed during a Spanish race breaking his collar bone, he was able to relay the news nearly as fast as the news networks.
I’m alive! Broken clavicle (right). Hurts like hell for now. Surgery in a couple of days. Thanks for all the well wishes.
For the past week or so he’s reported on his subsequent surgery, return to the United States and ongoing recovery. He’s also posted links to video messages and continued to promote his other main passion – fighting cancer through his Livestrong Foundation.
But where Twitter has really helped is with the drug tests. Twitter has given Armstrong a tool to broadcast to the world exactly when and where he is being visited by drug testers. You need only follow him for a few days to notice the frequency of the visits. Here are a few tweets following his March 17th test:
Yet another “surprise” anti-doping control. 24th one. This one from the French authorities. Urine, blood, and hair! Classic..
So I’m clear – never complaining about these tests. Def part of the job. Feel targeted? Of course. But anything to prove I’m clean. Onward.
I’m hearing from a lot of folks that there’s a lot of press clips re: my hair test/drug test yesterday and I was surprised and asking ?’s.
First off, I’m never surprised anymore. What does surprise me is that AFLD feels the need to publicly comment on confidential matters. (AFLD = the French anti-doping agency)
The Tweets about the ongoing drug tests are illuminating. Taking Armstrong at his word, they’re almost always a suprise; testers are frequently awaiting him at his home or hotel just after training rides; they come at odd times and are conducted by multiple agencies.
Reporting these events as they happen is a powerful means to rehabilitate his reputation to those who question whether he’s clean. Simply reporting after the fact that he’s been tested x times over x days by x agencies just doesn’t have the same credibility as reading about the tests as they happen.
I’ve always wanted to believe in Armstrong. His story is so good that it’s hard not to pull for him. I really hope he recovers from his current injury in time to compete at this year’s Tour de France and I hope he goes on to win for a record eighth time. If he does, and if he continues to use Twitter the way he has been, his reputation will be polished to a high gloss shine.