Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Bloggers Busted Lance Armstrong

Writing in the NYT a few days ago David Carr explained the important role of bloggers in the Lance Armstrong affair:
This is a story of how a group of people at the low end of bicycle racing used the Web and social media to take back custody of their sport from powerful dopers and liars and their enablers in the media.
Carr writes:
For those of us who paid only casual attention, his abasement — he has been dropped by Nike and other sponsors and has stepped down as chairman of LiveStrong — came as a deep shock. Sure, there was a steady hum of suspicion along the way, but Armstrong had never failed a drug test, and his steadfast denials were always dutifully reported.

Besides, there was a heroic narrative to be nurtured, and mainstream reporters pretty much stuck to the script — either because they were invested in the legend or were worried about maintaining access to one of the most important figures in sports. There were early and vocal dissenters, including Paul Kimmage, an Irish journalist and veteran of cycling coverage, David Walsh, and Juliet Macur of The New York Times. But for the most part, the journalists who seemed to know the most about professional cycling told us the least. To doubt Armstrong was to doubt the American dream, to effectively be “for cancer,” as his legion of defenders would claim.

But amid the conspiracy of silence, often enforced by Armstrong or his lawyers, according to the report, a small group of dedicated cycling enthusiasts took to blogs and Twitter. His otherworldly accomplishments, they wrote, were a monument not to the power of human spirit, but to the remarkable effectiveness of EPO, an oxygen-enhancing hormone. On Twitter, critics behind handles like @TheRaceRadio, @UCI_Overlord and @FestinaGirl jabbed at Armstrong’s denials and the sport’s leadership.

More important, NYVelocity, a tiny hobby blog that mostly covered the New York bike racing scene, helped pull back the blankets on the Armstrong legend. The blog published a satirical comic, “As the Toto Turns,” to savage effect, and in a series of postings it made the case that pro cycling was corrupt and that Mr. Armstrong’s denials masked a wilderness of lies.
Many sports need the benefits of what elsewhere is called an "extended peer community" to ask hard questions and push for answers. Kudos to the extended peer community of cycling.


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