A Lance Armstrong on steroids was so good that he won the Tour de France a record seven times. He was also so good that even an actor has to cheat to credibly fill his shoes. Ben Foster admitted that he felt the need to use performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to accurately play the role of Lance Armstrong in the upcoming feature film “The Program”.
We’ve all been told repeatedly over the years that it’s wrong to use steroids to enhance an athlete’s performance in sports. But guess what? It’s apparently okay to use steroids to enhance an actor’s performance in a movie about an athlete using steroids to enhance performance in sports. The rules in Hollywood are different than in sports.
Foster discussed his use of PEDs in an interview with The Guardian. He may have used the anabolic steroid testosterone. It may have been erythropoietin (EPO) or human growth hormone (hGH). These are all drugs that Armstrong has admitted using. These were the drugs that were necessary to become the Lance Armstrong who dominated the sport of cycling for so long. We may never know which of these drugs were used by Foster since he has refused to identify the drugs by name.
“I don’t want to talk about the names of the drugs I took,” Foster said. “Even discussing it feels tricky because it isn’t something I’d recommend to fellow actors.”
There’s more than a little irony in the fact that Foster doped for the movie. “The Program” is a movie based on the book written by rabid anti-doping crusader and journalist David Walsh. Walsh was almost certainly happy to see a screenplay written based on his book “Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong”.
However, Walsh hates doping and, by extension, dopers with a passion. He must be cringing at the thought that the movie adaption of his book is mired in controversy due to Fosters use of PEDs. So much for “pure” acting and “clean” actors. “The Program” will have to be listed with an asterisk next to it now.
The real-life Walsh may be troubled by Foster’s doping for the role. But the actor who plays Walsh in “The Program” has actually praised Foster for using steroids andor PEDs. Actor Chris O’Dowd said that Fosters drug use was a “really smart thing” to do.
“I think that’s a really smart thing and makes sense,” O’Dowd said in an interview with the BBC. “With something like that you know it’s not going to harm you necessarily, and you’re going to have to perform so much.
“I think if you have to take drugs in a role, it’s very hard to do without taking the drug at some stage in your life, I’m not advocating that you [should take drugs for a role], but I’m sure it probably wouldn’t hurt your performance. It might hurt you as a human being, but it would be silly to say that would not be a good way in to knowing [what it’s like]. That’s not to say you should, or you shouldn’t, but you can understand the validity of it.”
The real-life Walsh hasn’t responded publicly to news of Foster’s doping. But at least one other player involved in the real-life scandal has expressed outrage.
Emma O’Reilly, the soigneur (masseuse) for Armstrong and the United States Postal Service pro cycling team, felt Foster’s doping was disrespectful to the anti-doping movement. She shared her feelings on Twitter.
“Really? Is someone having a laugh. My life was made a living hell for years to clean up a sport I love and now it’s OK for Ben Foster to dope so he can be like Lance Armstrong? That’s not just ironic, it’s disrespectful,” O’Reilly tweeted.
And that is coming from someone who has forgiven Armstrong but still doesn’t care so much for Walsh as human being. In her book “The Race to Truth”, O’Reilly characterized Walsh as selfishly pursuing his own story without regard for the effect it would have on others.
“He’d hung me out to dry – but worse than that, the publisher had even openly warned him of the impact this would have on my life and had recommended proper support. Something I feel I never got,” O’Reilly wrote.
At the end of it all, O’Reilly remains committed to fighting drugs in sport. Unfortunately, Director Stephen Frears may not have her support in the promotion of “The Program”. Not to mention, he may have lost the support of the man who inspired the film, David Walsh. All thanks to Foster’s doping.
Meanwhile, Armstrong is in Austin laughing – and probably cheering Foster on.
Cyclingnews.com. (September 15, 2015). News shorts: Lance Armstrong actor doped for role, sparks real-life outrage. Retrieved from http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/news-shorts-lance-armstrong-actor-doped-for-role-sparks-real-life-outrage/
Hassan, G. (September 14, 2015). Chris O’Dowd: Ben Foster’s drug use for The Program ‘was smart’. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-34241211
Gilbey, R. (September 10, 2015). Ben Foster on playing Lance Armstrong: ‘doping affects your mind’. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/sep/10/ben-foster-the-programme-lance-armstrong-interview
Fotheringham, W. (July 2, 2014). Emma O’Reilly: ‘My relationship with Lance Armstrong was and still is a human one’. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/jul/02/emma-o-reilly-lance-armstrong-cyclist-doping