At this point you’ve surely heard the news that Lance Armstrong has public admitted to doping. This really chaps my ass because I used to really like the guy. He was inspirational. He beat testicular cancer, then went on to become the absolute zenith of his sport. Along the way, he started a charity and did a hell of a lot of good work (ignoring all those stupid yellow bracelets). This guy was awesome, and I remember defending him when the accusations started coming. It turns out it was all just a big steaming load.
After all the accusations, Armstrong’s admission likely comes as no real surprise. But for years Armstrong made convincing denials. I was snowed. I completely bought into his story. I thought the man was an unbelievable athlete and was being targeted by those he left in the dust. But then a funny thing happened: he retired, but the accusations just kept on coming.
Armstrong’s denials, of course, continued apace, but they started taking a different tone. Rather than being on the defensive, Armstrong went on the attack. He denigrated anyone who even suggested he might have cheated. He publicly humiliated and tried to ruin anyone who, as it now turns out, was trying to tell the truth.
So here we are, several years later, and Armstrong is making all these tearful apologies and doing soft-focused Oprah interviews. He’s positioning himself as the victim of all these attacks. Just a good person trying to reclaim his former glory and get back into the sport he loves. And why not? He admitted to wrong doing, didn’t he?
Yes, he says that he doped, but he’s also claiming he had a good reason. Everyone else, you see, was doping too. So Lance believed that he simply had to cheat, you know, to stay competitive.
This is where I really get pissed off. This is that same line of bullshit Barry Bonds and company keep trying to sell. “I had to cheat because everyone else did” is the kind of half-baked logic a seven year-old tries to use to get out of trouble. It’s an argument that’s just offensively stupid, and shows you just how much regard this guy has for his fans and for his sport, which is to say none.
Wait a minute, you say, what about Live Strong, the charity he built? Yes, his unrepentant cheating was the life’s blood that got that thing going. But why did he have to found his own charity? It’s not like there’s a shortage of excellent charities out there he could have become a part of. The American Cancer Society, for instance, would have certainly loved his sponsorship and all the attention and money that went along with it. But no, Lance had to set his own charity, to ensure that he got credit for the whole thing (and probably tax write-offs, and jobs for friends and family, etc).
For all the good it’s done, Live Strong is little more than a thinly-veiled public relations machine, engineered to stroke his ego by getting people to associate Lance Armstrong with charity. And it’s working, because I hear people trying to dismiss his misdeeds by evoking the Live Strong brand.
If Armstrong legitimately wanted to do good things, he had a ton of options available to him. He chose the path that would result in the most accolades for himself, and I think that’s pretty telling.
Here’s another things that’s really bugging me: we keep being told that Lance, and all these other athletes, “Used performance enhancing drugs” (or “PEDs” because people are apparently too stupid to handle multiple-syllable words). Bullshit. They cheated. They broke the rules to give themselves a competitive advantage. Saying that they were using performance enhancing drugs takes all the edge off it. It’s specifically worded language, chosen to make it sound not as bad as “cheating”, and I find it completely repugnant.
I cannot understand why people want to downplay this, even if it’s only a little bit. Why let these people off the hook? If anything, we should be crucifying these pricks as an example to everyone else. Letting them off easy does nothing but show me that these sports don’t care one little bit about honesty and integrity. And that just cheapens the legitimate accomplishments of the true greats.
In summary, Lance Armstrong is a cheating asshole, and everyone who is trying to justify his actions with lame platitudes are just completely full of shit.