Lance Armstrong

26 Aug

Lance Armstrong did not win any Tour de France’s.  This is the story of the day in most sports talk circles.  Now, quickly, name another cycling race.  Name another winner (who hasn’t been later disqualified) of this race.  That’s right.  We don’t care about bicycle racing, and the odds are few people do.

I heard on a radio show today that of the 180 riders in the 2001 race, over 150 have now been determined to be cheaters (by at least one person or group). It is literally possible that the man who passed the finish line in 68th place will one day be considered the winner. I’ve written before about how I think changing winners after the fact is silly, but this is bordering on obscene.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Lance Armstrong is completely guilty.  Let’s further assume that it would have been impossible for him to win anything without doing so.  Should he have done so?  Some will assert that taking drugs always makes you a cheater and it is never recoverable.  Of course, many of these same people will essentially overlook the attorney who does pot to calm down before big cases.

I come from it a little bit differently.  First, if we are to believe all the accusations, this was literally a situation where everyone was, in fact, doing it.  While I never condone breaking the law, I’m sure I’ve creeped above the speed limit a time or two.  If I had people as ardent in their study of my life as USADA was with Lance Armstrong, I think they would find things I did wrong also.  I also know that we are not defined by our worst moments.

Lance Armstrong used the fame that came from his circumstances of overcoming cancer and dominating a sport none of us knew anything about.  If all of that was a hoax to get to where he got, shame on Lance.  By the same token, if you look at what he has done since, you cannot argue with what Lance Armstrong has done.  He has used his celebrity to LIVE STRONG.  He has given innumerable people with cancer hope, both by his enthusiasm and his fundraising.  He has given an entire generation of fans more interest in cycling than the previous one.

Consider, that we live in a culture where it would be inordinately easy to exist without knowing how to ride a bike or owning one.  Yet, the decade dominated by Armstrong saw a 30% increase on bicycle sales than the previous one, which is especially impressive when experts were expecting a 10% decrease.  I would not say that we should do wrong things that ultimately lead to good things, but it is hard to argue with what Lance has done.

So, as this seems to be many sitting around bemoaning the bad things Lance has done, I think we can easily look at the good he has done and recognize the full picture of who he is.  While I think stripping a man of his accomplishments is silly, I am far more disheartened by his lifetime expulsion from the sport.  How can it benefit the sport to take away the one and best American ambassador for the sport?  (This wasn’t an international group, but a US one, that punished him).

Further, the athletes that do stick in the sport can learn from Lance.  They can learn from the great things Lance has done, but they can also learn from the bad things he did.  A contrite Armstrong could say more to bicycle racers than anyone else could.  Why does the sport force itself back into obscurity?  I don’t understand this, and I don’t know why I was not consulted, but I do know that it is the wrong decision.

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