Having seen the most recent trailer for Lance Armstrong biopic The Program, I've changed my mind

Like many other cycling fans, I let out a groan when details of the Lance Armstrong film The Program were originally released. Not Lance, not again.

There have been a couple of full-length features on the Texan and his fall from grace since his confession of cheating stunned the world, but this one is different – it’s a dramatisation.

Hollywood dramatisations have a knack of over-embellishing the story, with those embellishments then becoming ‘fact’ in the public consciousness, which is always a bit irritating. And by now we all know the real story: the depths that Armstrong and his US Postal cohorts delved to dope, cheat and manipulate their way to seven Tour de France wins.

I wasn’t sure I could really stomach it.

Then the most recent trailer for The Program appeared. And it looks rather good.

Yes, some of the dialogue sounds like it could be a bit much and delivered with a touch of Hollywood gusto. I admit I had a bit of a reservation about Chris O’Dowd playing journalist David Walsh, all frowns and one-man-crusade. And beard.

And yes, the cycling tech trainspotters are going to be up in arms because the ratio of the sprockets on Armstrong’s cassette probably isn’t quite right. But it’s not Armstrong, it’s Ben Foster. If we can accept that one man is playing the part of another man, surely we can accept that a slightly wrong bike is playing the part of the real one.

>>> Lance Armstrong biopic actor takes performance-enhancing drugs as ‘research’

That said, Foster seems to do a pretty good job of looking and sounding like Armstrong. And he revealed that in preparing for the role, much like the man himself, he took performance-enhancing drugs to see what they did to his body. He didn’t ride the Tour de France to see exactly what that did to his body too, but it’s quite hard to get on a WorldTour team these days. We’ll let him have that one.

As I said, we all know the Armstrong story, but that’s also no reason for not watching this interpretation. In the same way we all know what happened to the Titanic (it sank), but that didn’t stop people watching and being entertained by the film (which didn’t sink).

I won’t watch it and revel at cycling’s big baddie getting his comeuppance, or the downtrodden journalist being right all along. I’ll go along and watch it, partly because of the spectacle of seeing cycling on the big screen and partly because I think it will be a fascinating and unique crime drama.

How about you?

  • Stevo

    Dunno. What is Strava?

  • Steph Durant

    Wow! Really? Does she have a Strava account too?

  • Stevo

    Yes. And I’ve heard that Princess Diana is alive and well and lives in a finca on Mallorca.

  • Stevo

    The reasons I gave, plus the fact that people are rightly sceptical of anyone taking drugs unnecessarily, are exactly why people are upset. Also, if you don’t like the Hannibal Lecter example: Trainspotting was a superb film, yet as far as I am aware not one of the cast considered it necessary to become a regular heroin user in preparation for the role. Anyway, the effects of PEDs on cyclists are well documented. There is no need for a layman to experiment on himself, especially as the effects he experiences are likely to be quite different from those experienced by someone else who is training and racing 35,000 km a year.

  • blemcooper

    But that’s not really why people are upset is it?

    People aren’t upset about method acting done badly/stupidly or him using PEDs ineffectively, they are upset because of PEDs, period, even though the reasons people rightly get upset about PEDs in cycling don’t really apply to an actor playing a role in a movie.

    Plus, eating people is immoral and illegal. But taking PEDs under medical supervision when you are not an athlete subject to an anti-doping regime is neither immoral (though prescribing and administering them by the doctor might be) nor illegal.

  • Steph Durant

    And your scientific support for your “in theory …. “?

    Or are you just another lame LA-ass-kisser, making stuff up?

    “In theory” (or in actuality), was the whole entire rest of the peloton bribing officials like Lance? bribing opposing cyclists like Lance? threatening and coercing teammates like Lance? threatening and coercing girlfriends of teammates like Lance? threatening and coercing opposing cyclists like Lance? bribing doping officials like Lance? suing journalists and massage therapists and insurance companies like Lance? Never mind his drugging program was far more sophisticated and thorough than anyone else’s … and any other team’s.
    Hey, if we’re going to ATTEMPT to play the “level playing field” card, let’s at least do it right.
    LA was a thug. A bully. A racketeer. The peloton didn’t call him The Capo for no good reason.

  • Steph Durant

    You mean Lance has a cult? Well, yes, we knew that. I wouldn’t call cult members “friends”.

    I’ve heard he drives around in his car with his sports GPS on. What a super-lame way to rack up Strava-miles.

  • reece46

    Ferrari should get the plaudits by your screwed up reasoning.

  • J1

    You should see his Strava, he still has so many fans. Denial city.

  • graham

    It isnt just that Armstrong was a drugs cheat of massive proportions he was also a Bully, he tried to discredit anyone who voiced doubts about him to the point of ruining their careers. he also threatened riders who did not ride how he wanted them too. It always seemed strange to me how you hardly saw him in Europe apart from the TDF. Myself I hope he loses every penny he ever made from cycling.

  • Stevo

    You really do appear to have fallen for the hype. What evidence is there he would have won a completely clean race? What evidence is there he took training and tech to a new level?

  • Dunerider Carl

    He dominated an almost fully doped event for 7 years, so in theory he would have dominated a fully clean field, LA took training and tech to a whole new level. Still agree he’s an unpleasant character.

  • Cody Schroeder

    I’m definitely going to watch it. My old childhood friend is playing Floyd Landis!

  • Stevo

    Not necessarily that great. Top 30 at best in TdF if all riders had been clean, according to Greg Lemond. Also, the drugs available to most previous champions weren’t anywhere near as effective.

  • Glad to be of service N’n’C. All the best, Nigel.

  • Dunerider Carl

    One of the greatest cyclists/athletes ever, and (probably) the biggest cheat ever! But previous champions were never pursued/investigated quite like Lance so we’ll never truly know…

  • Anthony Gough

    pity about the daft irish comedian in it
    but will have to watch

  • ummm…

    That Floyd Landis character seems a bit odd. He haunts Armstrong in the trailer as if he was always his rival. I can already see them writing the character as a whistleblower in waiting. Which would be very disappointing.

  • Jdog

    Will it be as good as American Flyers, though?

  • Steph Durant

    That final nail will be the award / settlement out of the Justice Department case. It will be less than $100MM, but it could be a good $20MM, IMHO (a bit of a guess).
    Anyways, LA’s reputation is pretty much done; even the vocal ass-kissing very minority have gone away.

  • Steph Durant

    Agreed. Some people talk from emotion, or from previously formed opinions from a different angle. Foster’s PED taking was not particularly dangerous, his own decision, and not intended to enhance sports performance or support PED’s.
    Some people talk without thinking things through.

  • Norfolk_n_Chance

    Thanks for filling up my brain space with yet another absolutely pointless article for
    Ian Franklin to agree with…

  • SteelFrame

    I’m planning to see it. I’m excited that this could be the final nail in the coffin of Armstrong’s reputation!

  • blemcooper

    I don’t get why people are so upset about Foster taking PEDs as part of preparing/performing for this role. I can understand skepticism about “method acting” in general, but why be upset about the PEDs in particular?

    PEDs are bad in sport because it’s cheating, and in the case of Armstrong, it lead to bullying, fraud, conspiracies, character assassination of his detractors, etc.

    They may also cause harm, but so do lots of other things people choose to do every day.

    What is the analogy to badness for an actor to use them the way Foster claims to have used them? I’ve read some comments about how he must be a bad actor if he can’t act like he’s on PEDs without actually taking them. Well, fine, that’s a criticism of his method acting, not of PEDs.

    Is Foster “cheating”? Is he committing fraud or bullying anybody?

    Did he harm his body and/or did his doctor violate his Hippocratic oath? Maybe. But is it any worse than doctors who perform cosmetic surgery on vanity patients, or prescribe antibiotics at the insistence of their patients who have viral infections, or prescribe any other drug with side effects, but that actually has relatively little chance of doing any good?

    Is he setting a bad example by using them, saying that they work and they affected his mindset? It’s no secret that the drugs work and that they have side effects. So does gaining or losing a lot of weight for a role. So does getting drunk so you can produce a more realistic performance of a drunk person, etc. Why do people get so upset about it when it’s PEDs, but not so much when it’s cheeseburgers, lasagna and milkshakes?

  • Agreed. This is the society of the spectacle and the film represents the spectacle of society at that time. Great for Walsh that he was vindicated. I hope he earns from this as he went through so much for truth and honesty – not a lot of journalists would have been so darned dogged. Good Editorial.