By now we’ve all heard the news, and most of our mouths are no longer agape. Athletic and philanthropic hero Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005, has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.
In a recent two-and-a-half-hour “no holds barred” interview with Oprah Winfrey, the disgraced athlete apologized for his personal demons. He confessed to the charges that he once vehemently dismissed, admitting to the use of a slew of banned substances including erythropoietin, cortisone and testosterone, in addition to blood transfusions during his Tour de France wins. We are talking about masterminded, deliberate schemes, dating back to the mid-’90s, and involving what Winfrey referred to as “systematic doping rings in several countries.”
As captain of the U.S. Postal Service cycling team, Armstrong dragged everyone down with him. Despite his claim that he never verbally pressured his teammates into using performance-enhancing drugs, several teammates have asserted that Armstrong’s will to win led to demands to participate in the drug culture.
Armstrong may have apologized, but for every expression of remorse, there was an excuse. From feeling justified in his use of testosterone following his battle with testicular cancer to emphasizing the doping culture of cycling during that time to complaining that he was treated differently than others charged with substance use, Armstrong’s have apologies lost their integrity.
Never once did he express true feelings of guilt. He expressed regret over his character flaws, but explained his actions as results of his controlling competitive drive like an attorney trying to trick a jury.
Armstrong views his ban from participating in any competition sanctioned by a governing body as a death penalty, but the court and the public have spoken — Armstrong is not above the law, no matter what inherent flaws he may claim.
If Armstrong hopes this interview will bring him back into America’s good graces, he’s fooling himself. He comes off as a conceited, temperamental teenager, admitting to wrongdoing after he has already been caught in the hopes of mitigating his punishment.
There is one fatal flaw in this plan. His biking privileges have already been revoked, not by a parent whose convictions can be swayed with a little cajoling, but by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
He has like the boy who cried wolf, and he knows it. During the interview he said, “I’m not the most believable man in the world right now.” Nothing he says can be believed at this point, and his case is not any better for maintaining that he rode clean in 2009 and 2010.
If only kids listened to the wisdom of parents and elementary school teachers, who drilled into our brains the idea that lying is bad, lying to cover up lies is worse and trying to regain someone’s trust after you have lied is the most Herculean task of them all — even more challenging than winning the Tour de France.
He may have raised over $500 million for cancer research through his Livestrong foundation, but out of lies rose the belief and hope for both cancer patients and a citizenry hungry for a miracle. It is time for a more reliable role model.
But, we continue to add zeros to the end of our athletes’ paychecks, increasing the incentive to cheat, diminishing the honor in sports and reflecting society’s “win at all costs” mentality. We too readily justify the means as long as we’re satisfied by the ends. We need to change the way we look at success if we ever expect to see an end to corruption in sports or in any field.
I believe in second chances, but Armstrong has had more than enough opportunities to clean up his act, and I do not care to hear about what progress he makes toward correcting his flaws in the future. I do not think we know the full story, nor do I think we ever will. Armstrong wanted fame and he got infamy. He may be neve be forgotten, but he also should not be forgiven.