The original title of this documentary was to be “Lance Armstrong: The Road Back.” It had to be changed. LA was an American Hero and one of the most famous and celebrated athletes on the planet, who survived testicular cancer, which morphed into lung cancer and ultimately, turned into a brain tumor. This involved surgery and lots of treatment. He made it. He became a competitive cyclist, winning the Tour de France an unprecedented seven times in a row, from 1999 to 2005.
The world-famous bicycle race started in 1903 and ran every year except for the periods of the World Wars. The length of the race has been from 2,100 to 3,000 miles, and it covers long high-speed runs and lots of incredible climbing in the Pyrenees and the Alps. Almost from its beginning, allegations of doping have been leveled at the Tour de France
Other riders have won five races but never seven. The great Italian Gino Bartali won in 1938 and 1948. This time span is still the record for a period between wins. GB may have won 10 times if not for WWII. He was that good. Did he use drugs? No way to tell.
LA decided to retire after his 2005 win. Then he decided to make a comeback in 2009. He finished third. He came back in 2010, but crashes lowered his ranking. While he had been accused of drug use because of the seven previous wins, he always denied it and testing turned out negative.
Except in 1999 when he tested positive for a steroid. He produced a doctor’s prescription for an ointment and the test didn’t have any consequences. This is apparently where the lying began.
TAL is a superb documentary that chronicles a history of Lance and his Tour de France victories. Other than bad language – mostly by LA himself – it could earn a PG rating. When LA made his 2009 comeback, the testing began again and this time the results didn’t turn out well. Then, when other riders were exposed and caught, they turned on LA. He continued his denial up to a point. Then it all blew up.
He admitted his drugging, and his appearance on Oprah is well documented in this film. The Tour itself is seen in a lot of footage on Blu-ray and is spectacular. As was Lance’s rise and fall. His victories are gone from the books. His Olympic Bronze medal is forfeit. His sponsors have deserted him and most are suing to get their millions back. Even his cancer charity, Livestrong – which was probably his best accomplishment – asked him to step down.
One of Lance’s excuses is that everybody else was doing it. They all admit it. Shame, shame, shame. See it all on DVD, Blu-ray or download on the Internet. It’s well worth your time.
The Tour returns July 5 and runs to July 27. Lets hope all the athletes race clean. But I wouldn’t bet on it. But nonetheless, I will still watch every stage. Rated 3.5 out of 4.0 reasons to pedal, pedal, pedal.