Mark Webber has used his final column for the BBC, for the time being, to unload his thoughts on Lance Armstrong. The 36-year-old Aussie reveals he sought inspiration form Armstrong around 1999–2000 while reflecting on his grandfather’s battle with cancer.
“One of my biggest heroes, and one of the biggest influences on my life, was my grandfather. The last year and a half of his life was torturous. He had the most brutal finish to his life with cancer, and that knocked me around because it knocked my dad around. I was 14,” said Webber.
But rather than simply use the Lance Armstrong story, Webber looked deeper. In 2001 he made contact with the staff at the Indiana University Medical Centre who helped Armstrong through his recovery.
“Curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to see the people who had treated him and ask some questions about how he was, knowing full well I’d probably get as far as the reception and that would be it.
“But two days later I got a phone call from Latrice Haney, the nurse who worked very closely with Lance. She’s the one Armstrong describes as a real angel—it’s one of the things he did get right as she was a lovely, kind-natured person.
“She was super-professional throughout and said he had been very tough; he’d really fought the cancer hard,” wrote Webber.
After Mark gained entry into F1 and his profile grew, opportunities to meet Armstrong soon came.
“Then, through friends of friends, I got to spend some time with Lance, did some rides with him and went to his ranch when I was in Texas after the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix.
“It was such a big thing for me at the time. I jumped into Dead Man’s Hole with him and some of his mates; it’s a place he describes in the book as making him feel alive after his cancer survival.”
The two kept in touch over the years until the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix. Webber had organised tickets for Armstrong to attend the race, but for unknown reasons the then seven times Tour de France winner didn’t show.
“Red Bull Racing had gone out of their way to meet all his demands, which were not inconsiderable, and had everything laid on, but he failed to show without a word of an apology. I thought it was very poor form and I was disappointed,” explained Webber.
Mark then addressed the fall of Armstrong following the self-confessed drug cheat’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, “I think what’s staggering to everyone is the amount of people he was prepared to take out on the way up; people who were morally on the right side of the bridge. He wasn’t worried about the ramifications and the position he may have put these people in; it was all about Planet Lance.
“That’s why, Lance, using your words, the ‘death’ penalty isn’t too heavy. You rubbed a lot of people’s noses in it for so long and treated the rest of us like idiots.”
Webber’s full article is worth reading. He sums things up quite well when he ends by saying, “Life is full of choices. Sure, none of us are perfect, but ultimately karma always triumphs.”
[Source: BBC | Pic: Red Bull/Getty Images | Thanks to Tim for the tip]