DOC SOUP: THE ARMSTRONG LIE

It is not hard to imagine why someone might cheat – they weren’t completely prepared to begin with, they wanted an extra advantage, etc. – whether in school, sports or life. Yet it is still difficult to accept and move on once the truth is revealed and the person exposed.

The biggest sports newsmaker of late, besides the Sochi Olympics, has been the exposure of cyclist Lance Armstrong as a doper during his Tour-de-France years.

With his documentary The Armstrong Lie, director Alex Gibney managed to reveal a different side to the story that we never fully understood until now.

Documentary number four in the Doc Soup series, presented by Hot Docs and the Calgary International Film Festival, The Armstrong Lie is a gateway into the unfortunately surprisingly fraudulent and deceitful world of professional cycling.

Before I saw the documentary, the only information I knew about the Armstrong scandal was what I had read in the news. And truthfully, I didn’t pay much attention to it, only long enough to decide that Lance Armstrong was a cheat.

But Gibney’s film put more context into the whole situation than I knew there was to begin with, and he introduced us to the cycling world and Armstrong’s lie so easily that it is hard to believe we were fooled by it in the first place.

There was one scene in particular that stayed with me. In a manner of 30 seconds, seven pictures flashed onscreen, each one picturing the podium winners of the seven years that Armstrong won the Tour.

In every picture, each of the athletes but Armstrong had been blurred out. At the same time, Gibney’s voiceover said that in all of Armstrong’s Tour wins, all of the podium winners had been caught and charged with doping. All but Armstrong.

Armstrong and Gibney both said what I was thinking at the time later in the film – if doping meant winning in that sport in that era, why do we have a problem with it?

It’s now the lie more than the doping.

In all the other instances that I am aware of, the athlete doping was given a punishment, there was a little article in the paper the next day and then nothing but a little reference when that person was mentioned in passing.

For Armstrong, the lie went on for years and that’s the issue that Gibney brought forth so clearly in his film.

It is the things Armstrong did to maintain the lie over so many years that truly disappoint us.

How do you move on after a film like this – so open and revealing about an athlete’s mistakes? And what does it mean for our belief in other athletes and sports?

I’d be lying if I said my beliefs weren’t shaken. But I’d like to think that I believe the best in people before believing the worst.

Doc Soup’s next film is The Unbelievers, directed by Gus Holwerda. This documentary follows scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they travel the globe, speaking to people about the importance of science and reason in today’s society. It will screen on March 5, 2014 at Eau Claire Theatres at 7:00 p.m.

For more information and ticket sales, visit http://www.hotdocs.ca/docsoup/doc_soup_calgary/

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