Armstrong had his chance, now nothing but a fraud
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013
Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 20:01
There is no doubt that professional cyclist Lance Armstrong’s journey from being diagnosed with cancer to winning the Tour-de-France (the sport of cycling’s premier event) seven consecutive times was at one time the greatest comeback story in sports history. The man cycled hundreds of miles through the curvature of France’s landscape en route to his first yellow jacket in 1999, repeating the feat 6 more times in the same number of years. Armstrong and his doctors at the time of his diagnosis were doubtful he would even live that long. Now, in my mind, only one word captures what Lance Armstrong became: a fraud.
Even before Armstrong’s final stand on the podium, accusations arose that his comeback was aided by performance enhancing drugs. Those accusations eventually became louder and voiced by more with knowledge of the situation. Eventually, due to increased pressure from an investigation by the USADA, Armstrong admitted to using PED’s publically in an interview with Oprah Winfrey last week.
After first hearing Armstrong’s intentions of coming clean I was saddened because I was one of the many who defended Armstrong’s legacy, one which is now tarnished beyond repair. After all, the methods by which cyclists were tested for PED’s was suspect and proven to be less than perfectly accurate. And there are always those who choose to capitalize on potential publicity by accusing a celebrity athlete of cheating. I am, after all, a firm believer that one is innocent, even in the court of public opinion, until proven guilty. However, I am also a believer in the adage ‘what seems too good to be true, probably is.’
We now know, due to Armstrong’s own admission, all of the accusations are true: he cheated several different ways using numerous drugs to boost his performance. However, this is not what is most disgusting about Armstrong’s admission. What is most impeachable is the fact Armstrong went beyond vehement denial: he viciously attacked those in the past who accused him of cheating, often resorting to legal action. When you seek money from individuals who are telling the truth about you while at the same time ruining their reputation, that makes you an arrogant fiend. Furthermore, his admission seems insincere and untimely. Without insurmountable evidence, I question whether or not Armstrong would have ever come clean.
I am aware that there are those who say the overwhelming good Armstrong did through Livestrong far exceeds in import any wrongdoing he did on the bike. The millions of dollars that continue to be raised through his charity towards a cure are overlooked by nobody, including myself. However, as Armstrong was aware last week when he cut ties with Livestrong, that charitable cause can no longer have him as its figurehead.
There are also those who defend Armstrong’s PED use by saying things such as ‘well, everybody was cheating.’ I can understand in the world of professional sports that there is pressure to win by any means necessary. And when everyone around you is cheating, I am sure it is easy to justify your actions. However, this defense by no means protects Armstrong’s integrity nor does it legitimize his actions. It may rationalize them, but in no way does it making his cheating any more ethical.
Lance Armstrong had every chance to tell the truth. Instead, he lied to reporters, investigators, the government, his loyal staff at Livestrong, and even his family for years. He’s going to owe millions of dollars to those he sued for accusing him. Yet, just as I am sure of all of this, I also know we live in a society that offers a second chance to almost anyone who asks for it. There are plenty of examples in the celebrity and sports worlds who have lied and cheated their way to stardom, fallen from grace, and then proceeded to repair their image. However, his situation is unique in that I don’t see how he could ever be completely trusted after showing such malice in his intent to mislead the public and damage those who stood in his way. His incessant mendacity will ultimately cost him that second chance because the public often forgives celebrities for transgressions they commit against each other, just not towards the public.
The saddest part of Armstrong’s admission is that he didn’t need to cheat to become famous or to raise awareness for his charity. Any cancer survivor ought to be lauded for their determination. Merely returning to his level of competition is a feat in itself. Rather, Armstrong will deservedly be left with an empty trophy case and a dismantled legacy.