A former pro cyclist, and now journalist for the London Times felt the full wrath of Lance Armstrong during a press conference preceding the Amgen Tour of California. Paul Kimmage was bold enough to ask about Armstrong's support of two 'dopers' (Floyd Landis and Irwin Basso). Armstrong let loose with a tirade against Kimmage for writing a piece calling him 'the cancer' of cycling, clearly a metaphor for the alleged use of Armstrong's PEDs leading to his multiple Tour de France wins.
Kimmage apparently has violated the la cosa nostra code of omerta within the cycling doping fraternity by 'spitting in the soup'. That brought him vitriol from multiple outposts of cycling. Perhaps his metaphor was not appropriate in discussing Armstrong (should he have used 'venereal disease', which would also make everyone uncomfortable; maybe 'common cold').
Armstrong told Kimmage he "wasn't worth the chair he was sitting on". Nice comments from a guy who is a purported humanitarian. Although Armstrong took umbrage at the 'cancer' metaphor, he needed to understand the comments were a metaphor only. The journalist was not endorsing cancer. The journalist was not promoting cancer. The journalist in the past used cancer as a metaphor and was not using it in his question.
Armstrong wimped out by saying 'Floyd doesn't believe he is guilty' (and has any doper ever believed he is guilty; forget that international courts found Landis red-handed guilty), then added some other illogical verbiage. Here is a report from The Examiner (complete with video):
Lance asked the gentleman his name. The man answered, “Paul Kimmage.” I render a guess Paul may have legally changed it by now. Kimmage, a former pro cyclist from the ‘80s and author of doping expose Rough Ride, is known for exposing the use of drugs in cycling. This is good! The problem? He thinks Lance’s general popularity has made the scandal of doping “disappear”. This is bad! This, however, is even worse: When Lance began his comeback, Kimmage said, in a September interview, “Well he [Lance] is the cancer in this sport. And for four years this sport has been in remission. And now the cancer's back." Kimmage literally called Lance Armstrong “a cancer.” Lance responded in what I can only describe as verbal chemotherapy. And an awesomely high dosage at that.
And Armstrong's response:
"I am here to fight this disease. I am here so I don't have to deal with it, you don't have to deal with it, none of us have to deal with it, my children don't have to deal with it. Yet you said I am the cancer. And the cancer is out of remission. So it goes without saying, no, we aren't going to sit down and do an interview."
“You [pointing at Kimmage] are not worth the chair you’re sitting on.”
The problem here was that Kimmage didn't judge the crowd in the room. He essentially went into the Roman forum and asked the Cesar if Rome, indeed doesn't suck...not a good idea.
Armstrong, feeling all righteously indignant, and riding for his 'cause' (although the comeback is more about Lance the personality than Lance the cancer fighter) unleashed an unprofessional and undignified tirade on the journalist, clearly veering from the topic and the question. Methinks he protested too much.
A more professional response would have been to coolly kept on-topic.
Pro cycling will never rid itself of doping (and it has proven that competitors will drug cheat with disturbing regularity at every opportunity) while the cycling mafia controls the enterprise (and rooms like this).
Cycling fans and various groupies will adorn Armstrong with attention. Pro cycling will ignore doping, to the determent of the fairness of the sport. Denial is a powerful force. Death and disability from doping is powerful too.
Remember, doping kills -- just like cancer.