Today is the day of judgment for Lance Armstrong. For days now, there have been reports that are announcing what everybody was anticipating in the sports world. Lance Armstrong, disgraced cyclist, banned for life from competing in events, 7-time winner of the Tour de France and founder of the non-profit organization Livestrong has admitted to using performance enhancing supplements. This confession was made to Oprah Winfrey in an exclusive interview for the OWN network.
The news saddens me. I wasn’t a follower of sports when Armstrong was cycling. But if you know anything about sports, how can you not know about Lance Armstrong. He wasn’t just one of the best. He was the best. Armstrong’s legacy is now officially tarnished forever. The whole world will know now that he has been lying to us for years. He lied to us about his drug use. He lied to us about who knows what else. It is not clear why Armstrong lied. Former friends say that he was a power hungry tyrant. I think a lot more will be answered and a lot more questions will be had after the interview airs.
It would be easy to dismiss Armstrong as just another juicer. After all, cycling is one of the dirtiest sports when it comes to steroids and other drugs. If Armstrong was doing it, so was everyone else. It doesn’t always work out that way. Armstrong was tested over 200 times over his career but never tested positive once. This leads to the question on how he got away with it. Before the authorities stepped in, all there was hearsay. So you could say that Armstrong was still clean, because he never tested dirty. Many used this argument to defend him the same way Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were defended in baseball. Clemens and Bonds never failed a drug test either. But their names were involved with heavy scandals regarding drugs just like Armstrong is now.
We may find out for sure on Thursday how Armstrong could go for years without detection of his drug use coming up on tests. One possible explanation is based on science and chemistry. I had an old teacher who explained it to my class this way two years ago, when the fall of Armstrong began. Lance Armstrong is an incredible athlete. Before his body was ravaged by testicular cancer, Armstrong looked to be the next superstar. After Armstrong recovered from cancer, he went on to win seven races. Armstrong’s body before and after the cancer is different than an average person. Naturally, it would take an almost incomprehensible amount of work. Armstrong trained his body for years and put in a lot of effort to get to to the top of the field. Steroids are used to increase testosterone. Armstrong likely had a naturally high level so it wouldn’t take as much of a drug to make him get to the godly level he competed at for several years. However, this is purely speculation and more will be determined when Armstrong’s interview airs.
Setting the drugs aside, as I was listening to the Mike and Mike radio show on my drive to school the other day, another side of this story must come up. Armstrong was often criticized by former teammates and employees as being cruel and willing to crush anybody in his path to get what he wanted. But on the other hand, his charity has raised around 500 million dollars for cancer research. Livestrong is one of the most recognizable charities today. The question Mike and Mike were struggling with is can we vilify somebody who has done so much good, despite doing so much bad. It is a serious question. It’s a lot easier to vilify Barry Bond or Roger Clemens. It’s easy to vilify Marion Jones, the disgraced Olympic track star. The big difference here is the charity. Bonds and Clemens may have changed baseball, but they never really did anything with the millions they made. Jones went to prison. But Armstrong was a hero and it could be said that his work saved hundreds of lives. Is it fair to make someone a villain if they did so much good despite all the bad things they did. Is Armstrong still a good guy despite all the lying and the bullying? It is up to every individual to make that decision for themselves. I can’t make that judgment for you. Personally, I think Armstrong did some terrible things. Terrible things that will tarnish the good. But at the end of the day, I believe Armstrong will be forgiven. There are people who have done far worse things and have made comebacks. It will be up to Armstrong to see what happens next.