After Lance Armstrong’s sixth Tour de France win on Sunday, he got a call from the president of the United States, who told him, “You’re awesome.” And while the European press largely agreed with that characterization, among the plaudits were plenty of sour grapes.
An editorial in Madrid’s El Pais rehashed unsubstantiated rumors of drug use by Armstrong, remarking, “The triumph of Terminatour comes … as questions are asked in various quarters if he won these six Tours cleanly or with the help of stimulants,” and characterizing him as “arrogant, cold, machine-like.”
And in Switzerland, La Tribune de Genevescorned Armstrong as haughty and described the U.S Postal Service team’s effort as“a typically American business that scorns humanity.” It went on to chide the cancer survivor: “Mankind is not fond of those who gorge themselves on success without suffering and without showing compassion for their fellows.” (Translations from Spanish and French courtesy of BBC Monitoring.)
Liverpool’s Daily Post reported that a poll conducted by a French newspaper “placed Armstrong behind only Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher and footballer Nicolas Anelka in a list of the most disliked sportsmen in France” and drily commented, “The reasons are unclear, but in the wake of the US-led war in Iraq, his nationality may be a factor.”
“Maybe it’s not national but personal,” speculated Alastair Campbell in the London Times. “[A]nti-Armstrongism, anti the fact that he keeps winning their game. They respect him. They admire the way he came back from cancer. They see in him a strong character who has devoted his life to their Tour. But Chirac’s France wants French winners and, if it can’t have them, other Europeans. But Americans? Non, merci.”