I thought this got posted a loooong time ago. It didn’t, but I needed to share my thoughts. Enjoy.
We all know the story by now. Man overcomes cancer, wins multiple Tour De France titles, becomes the face of a foundation determined to end the bitter disease. Man fights allegations that he used performance enhancing drugs, is stripped of his titles and steps away from leadership post of said foundation.
It’s been a frustrating and tiring news cycle. At first, we couldn’t get enough of the man as we watched him on late night talk shows and saw his picture on the covers of weekly news magazines, watched as he received awards for athletics and philanthropy. But then the stories changed. Now the man was fighting to defend his name against people who accused him of being a fake. You didn’t want to believe it at first, but the evidence mounted. Finally, he was banned from the very sport to which he brought global attention as well as any sanctioned athletic event. Stripped of his titles and other victories, the man refused to admit what everyone else already suspected and knew: He cheated.
Lance Armstrong admitted in an interview with Oprah that he used performance-enhancing drugs.. Over the past few days, I’ve heard the sentiment that “even though what Lance did was wrong we have to remember the positive impact he had in the fight against cancer and the inspiration he gave to those battling the disease”. I couldn’t disagree more.
Is it fair to not give Armstrong the wrath he deserves? Tell that to Felippo Simeoni. Armstrong threatened to ruin Simeoni after he testified against him in 2004, saying “You made a mistake when you testified against Ferrari (the Victor Conte of cycling) and … when you sued me … I can destroy you”.
And what about Emma O’Reilly? Armstrong sued O’Reilly and “The Sunday Times” for libel after she explained how the US Postal Team covered up his positive test for corticosteroids during one of his Tour victories. Imagine being sued for telling the truth…
Go easy on him? Tell that to the US Postal Service team, who paid tens of millions of dollars to sponsor Armstrong and his team. What about SCA Promotions, the insurance agency who paid Armstrong $12 million in bonuses for winning the Tour de France?
What about David Walsh? Armstrong accused Walsh, a journalist who didn’t believe that Armstrong was a clean competitor, that he had a vendetta against cycling because his 12-year son died while riding his bike.
Some people are pathological liars. They can’t stop until it’s too late, when the lie has gotten too big for them to control. That’s the case with Armstrong. It’s one thing to just say you didn’t take performance enhancers but when you make statements such as “I am sorry for you. I am sorry you can’t dream. I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles”, as Armstrong did on the podium after winning his final Tour, you’re bleeding arrogance. When the evidence mounts and former teammates confess your crimes and you still proclaim your innocence? When the International Cycling Union and USADA strip you of everything you’ve ever worked for and you still refuse to acknowledge the truth? Now you’re insulting our intelligence.
The only reason Armstrong came clean is because he wants to compete in athletic events. Were this not the case, he’d still be proclaiming his innocence to the media, suing people who dare speak the truth and taking down anyone who was a threat to his popularity and bank account. Armstrong is an evil man who he himself said deserves a second chance, essentially because the other athletes who were caught cheating received a shorter, less restrictive suspension. This piece of slime has no regret.
This story isn’t about cycling. It’s not about cheating or performance enhancing drugs. We like to paint pictures of our athletes as “warriors” and “fighters” and Armstrong is true to that description: he did not go down without a fight. The problem I have with his story is that he was determined to ruin anyone who opposed him; anyone who dared to speak the truth and ruin his legacy. He would rather ruin the lives of Felippo Simeoni and Emma O’Reilly than admit he had done wrong. He would rather embarrass the US Postal Service, SCA Promotions and all of his sponsors like Nike, Oakley and Trek before tarnishing his own legacy. Armstrong deserves every harsh word and every piece of criticism he gets. In no way should we ignore his actions because of the impact of the LiveStrong Foundation. I’m thankful that it has raised money for cancer research and provided inspiration for those fighting cancer. But we would be naïve to allow Armstrong a pass. The end doesn’t justify the means.
-Information for this story came from an Oct 22 article in Sports Illustrated written by Alexander Wolff and David Epstein, interview by the BBC World Service’s NewsHour with David Walsh, ESPN and the Huffington Post.