This is a subject I never foresaw expounding upon on this blog. It is far from an area of expertise, but, hell, everyone is talking about it so lets tackle it with a helmet to helmet hit.
Lance Armstrong is all over the sports and legitimate media right now with his so called confession to use of performance enhancers to (another item I never thought would make this blog) Oprah Winfrey. It is absolutely inescapable right now, so here now I offer my opinion.
I am neither a cycling nor Lance Armstrong fan. But I came of age at a time when both baseball AND football players were growing gills via various performance enhancers. I wouldn’t call myself blind to the issue, but rather CHOSE to remain blissfully “unaware.” Who are we kidding, we were all aware, all complicit, myself included. However, once these issues were brought to the forefront, once the media deemed it time to expose these shortcuts, most or all of us were suddenly OUTRAGED by the idea. Sosa? McGwire? Romanowski? Done. Names dragged through the mud. How dare they? My God man. If you are from my generation, shame on you. We all knew it. We all allowed it. We were as complicit as any. Granted being a younger generation can never be faulted, are we all of a sudden a dumber generation than our predecessors at a time when knowledge and technology are advancing far beyond those generations? No. We were complicit, docile, willing to accept those new feats of athleticism at face value. Dumb and naive.
That previous paragraph might seem like a conclusion. It isn’t. You see, Lance Armstrong, for many, like myself, for a brief time, seemed like a revelation: a clean athlete in a dirty sport overcoming untold numbers of cancer ravaging his body, including the loss of a testicle. Seven straight Tour De France titles, with a compromised immune system and body factor, he was truly the embodiment of the American Dream, to adapt, overcome, dominate. I, for one, bought into it. I was not alone. Millions upon millions fashioned their “Livestrong” yellow bracelets and celebrated the man. He was an icon, showing up in both commercials and celluloid (Dodgeball). He was dating Sheryl “One Sheet” Crow. The man was a step beyond becoming a legend, he was a step away from becoming an American Institution.
All the while, so we thought, the temper-tantrumed French were outraged at all of this, and rightfully so, as their so called smear campaign culminated a few months ago with Lance vacating his tour wins. It was a bitter pill to swallow for some. Then the bombshell dropped Saturday with news Armstrong would confess his sins to Oprah this week. From sipping Dom to slurping Oprah. Quite the fall from grace.
With that, here is my opinion after that all too brief synopsis. Lance Armstrong deserves some benefit of the doubt. He was a transcendent athlete, and here is why: EVERYONE in cycling dopes. EVERYONE. It is the first or second dirtiest sport there is (with track and field). He just committed the mortal sin of winning seven in a row.
Secondly, the man, who recovered from no less than about 59 different forms of cancer, formed LiveStrong, which has raised millions upon millions for cancer research. You cannot ignore that. The man has done more for cancer than Marlboro has caused it.
That being said, we cannot ignore some facts about Lance. He is, along with Barry Bonds, the most unsympathetic figure in all of these doping scandals. Anyone who blew the whistle on him was swiftly, efficiently, coldly, and callously taken to court, to the accusers expense. Armstrong and Bonds are the most vindictive and crass liars sport has ever known. For that, Armstrong owes not only an apology, but he owes monetary damages to those whose reputations he has destroyed through his perpetual denials.
Armstrong can also be compared to convicted liar Marion Jones. Jones was the Track and Field darling of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Shortly after Sydney, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, owner by Victor Conte, was raided. Its clients included Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, and the aforementioned Marion Jones.
Much like Armstrong, she denied, denied, denied, and she proved to be the litmus test for these PED cases. She even had two pages of her “autobiography” devoted to these few words: “I am not a cheater.” Denial publicly like that equals guilt in the court of public opinion, and, go figure, she admitted to using in 2007.
With all that, it comes as no surprise that Armstrong admitted his guilt. His greatest sin is not admitting it earlier. A slightly less sin is that he seems to show no contrition about it.
My opinion is this. Lance Armstrong cheated, there is no doubt about it, no second guessing now that he has admitted it. However, his whole sport was doing the same thing, same as in the steroid era in baseball. He is being singled out, and rightfully. He is the single most identifiable face of that sport, for better or worse. However, I personally have no problem with that. Doping was widespread in cycling, so why must Armstrong bear the cross? Because he is a winner. He was an asshole. He is a vindictive bastard who must always win. That is the essence of Lance Armstrong. He is an Ultimate athlete. A warrior. A liar. A cheat. Much like any of us, he is an anomaly.