Even little old Adelaide fell in love with Armstrong as he rode like a white knight up and down our hills and dales.
Former SA premier Mike Rann was constantly photographed with his arms around the hero’s neck, as if some of the magic would rub off.
Now, of course, we know it was all a lie. Like the rest of the world, young and old, we feel totally betrayed by Lance Armstrong. His name is trash. And we want all the taxpayer money back.
So why would we want to see yet another film about him? Documentaries have already revealed the facts and the endless sordid lies.
In his new film The Program, however, British director Stephen Frears uses a clever mixture of facts and dramatisation to try to take viewers inside the mind of Armstrong, to explore the question: “Why did he do it?”
Ben Foster plays Armstrong with a steely nastiness right from the beginning. Having defeated a near-fatal testicular cancer, the cyclist is shown as a man who now feels he has nothing to lose and will do whatever it takes to grab the big prizes.
His drug-propelled journey is initiated and aided by an Italian physician who is excited by his experimentation and what his drugs can achieve. The only person who suspects Armstrong of cheating is Sunday Times journalist David Walsh, played by Chris O’Dowd, but he is shunned by the other reporters, who are star-struck and do not really want to know the truth.
Frears (whose directing credits include films such as Philomena and The Queen) implies we were all complicit in Armstrong’s lies because the truth was too painful to even consider. Even though Armstrong consistently repeated his mantra, “We’re all the authors of our own life story”, and we should all “Go out there and write the best damn story we can”, people didn’t want to doubt him, regardless of the rumours.
We loved the story he told; it made us all feel powerful. He showed us that the best way to cover up lies is to be upfront and just keep on lying right up until the end.
Frears also shows how many people covered up for Armstrong, including the authorities. Why? He was great for the sport and for business.
So, why did he do it? Was he a narcissistic sociopath? Yes.
Was his real addiction the drug of success? Yes.
Was he prepared to do whatever it took to keep on winning? Yes.
Did everyone involved turn a blind eye? Yes.
Frears is merciless in answering these questions.
Listen to the words of the Leonard Cohen song “Everybody Knows” as the end credits of The Program roll.
Given what is now being exposed about drug-taking in so many sports, are members of the public less gullible about our sporting heroes? Probably not. We need them too much.
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