So Lance Armstrong is going to sit down with Oprah today and spill the beans on one of the largest non-secrets in all of sports. Yes, Armstrong is finally going to fess up to the fact that he cheated during his career by using performance enhancing drugs; that the 7 Tour de France titles he won weren’t manufactured through grit and determination, but rather test tubes and needles.
Oprah is going to do what she does, that being give a heartfelt interview that allows Armstrong to tell his story in a way that will probably tear at our heart-strings. That’s not a slight against Oprah. She’s shown over the course of her career that she is an excellent interviewer, but at this stage you can’t help but feel like every Q&A she performs is aimed at increasing the stock price for Puffs Plus or Kleenex.
With that said, there’s only one question left to ask: Should we even care at this point? Honestly… I don’t think we should.
Now, before you jump all over me for not flying off the deep end putting Armstrong up on the cross, allow me to explain myself.
First off, it’s cycling. This isn’t Major League Baseball or NFL football. Does anyone except for the niche cycling fan honestly give a crap about who cheated to win a bicycle race? I don’t. At what point did everyone become so enamoured with the sport of cycling that what Armstrong did cuts them deeply to the depths of their souls? I don’t get it.
Secondly, and going a step further, there’s this simple little fact… EVERYONE IN CYCLING CHEATS!!!! Seriously, look up how many guys have been busted for PED use in cycling. The list is a mile long. There are races where we have no named winner because you’d have to go to about 15th place before you could name the first clean qualifier and even then, is that guy clean or did he get lucky?
Armstrong wasn’t doing anything that anyone else in his sport wasn’t already doing. So while everyone in the professional cycling community can get up in arms about how Armstrong cheated I wouldn’t be surprised is most of the anger stems from the fact that Armstrong did what he did better than anyone else. It’s jealousy.
Third, Armstrong is no different from any other athlete who has cheated with PED’s to get ahead. Look at the situation and the cards he had been dealt. Armstrong was battling back from stage 3 cancer with his career in jeopardy. No team would have him and he was at a cross roads. If someone was threatening your livelihood, wouldn’t you do whatever it takes just to survive? I can’t fault him for that. As someone struggling to get by in this world I can’t say I wouldn’t do whatever it takes to get ahead and improve my current situation.
Lastly, when you look at all Armstrong has or, depending on your view point, hasn’t accomplished, nothing stands out greater than his Livestrong Foundation. When you look at all the good that foundation has done for cancer research and cancer patients, can’t you make the argument that the ends justify the means? That foundation has done so much and will continue to do so much that it’s hard to fault Armstrong for what he’s done in terms of his cycling career when it led to such a positive impact on such a horrific problem.
That’s my reasoning for not being up in arms about Lance Armstrong’s PED admission. That’s just how I feel. I understand that other people are going to be way more up in arms about this. They’ll point to how he made money off of this image as a cancer survivor who achieved the impossible. He sold books and videos, and all sorts of things based off of an image that was nothing more than a lie. I get that.It’s just that he’s not the first person to do something like this and he won’t be the last. And while he’s built a comfortable life for himself, he’s put so much more into his foundation in terms of time, money, and blood sweat and tears.
So yeah, it’s not a perfect situation. It never is when sports idols are knocked from atop the shiny pillars we placed them on. But, like Charles Barkley said so many years ago, athletes shouldn’t be role models. They aren’t perfect. They’re human and prone to the same mistakes as anyone else.
Lance Armstrong made a mistake, a huge mistake even, but he is the one that has to live with the repercussions of that decision. Not me… not you… Just him. So if that means he spends the next three or four decades raising funds for cancer research and helping those who seem to be at life’s cross roads in their battles with cancer in order to make amends, well…
Maybe what he did wasn’t so bad after all.