January 30, 2013

During the last several years, we’ve seen the fall of two of the world’s super heroes: Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. But of the two, Armstrong fell further. Reason being: Woods betrayed his immediate family; Armstrong betrayed us all. Let me tell you why.

Over the last two decades, my wife Connie and I have made watching the Tour de France an annual tradition, even getting up at 5:00 a.m. to keep up with the race’s progress. Why? Because of the mesmerizing presence of that indomitable cancer survivor, Lance Armstrong. How vicariously proud he made us feel of our nation, the bicycling sport, and the human spirit. Not just in America alone, for Armstrong became a world icon.

Then the doping dominoes began to fall, one after another; but, in spite of multiple accusations, Armstrong’s teflon armor withstood all attacks. We collectively believed in him, attributing the doping accusations to envy, sour grapes, or mere plea bargaining. After all, Lance had given us his word. Given it to us in thousands of sound-bytes. Had sued one after another of his accusers. Had spent a fortune to protect his good name.

And then, like a Greek tragedy: the fall. The long, long fall. The sitting in a chair opposite Oprah where he admitted, matter-of-factly, that yes, his entire climb to the very top of cycling’s Mount Olympus was riddled with lies: there was no substance to his room full of yellow jerseys, for they’d come to him via years of stacked decks—no level playing field for him! Yes, he admitted in deadpan fashion, he’d lied to everyone: teammates, racing officials, interviewers, fans, even his own son. He’d viciously attacked and done his best to ruin those who dared to speak the truth about him. In short, he’d lied to the entire world. And there, in that chair, he revealed to us all that the Emperor had no clothes—never had had clothes. It was all sham.

Why? For the same expressed reason all those other cyclists used to justify their acts: “because everyone else was doing it.”

But Lance was not “everyone else”—we’d held him to a higher standard than they.

Humpty-Dumpty had such a great fall that not all the king’s horses or all the king’s men could put him together again. The same is true of Lance—he can never be put back together again. Others who betray those closest to them, we may in time forgive. But not Lance, for he betrayed us all.

My wife and I will never again look at cycling the way we did before. Always, in the back of our minds, will be that insidious question: Are we being betrayed again? Which of today’s leaders got to the front because of doping? Of what value are time trials when some win through performance-enhancing drugs? Which ones are winning through deceit today? How many wide-eyed hero-worshiping children will be stripped of their innocence, their faith in their sports idols? How many will, as a result, become disillusioned, cynical about sports victories that used to mean something?

Next week, we’ll dig deeper into this international tragedy. Not just Lance and Tiger, but how we as a society have got this way.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you, thank you…my feelings exactly, the Emperor has no cloths.

  2. Indeed! My husband, Rudi, has been all about the Tour for these many years. Having grown up in Europe and knowing the locations made the race a kind of “homecoming” event for him. He has also stood along the route during the race and experienced the excitement of “being there.” He also had gotten to know a few of the riders, I believe. Like you and Connie, he would schedule himself for early morning viewing of the race. Sometimes he even got me to watch–a monumental task of another kind.

    To know that Armstrong lied about his doping and sued those who dared to reveal what they knew about it, has not only sullied him but the sport itself. It’s going to take some time and some monumental “clean up” by the racing commission for anyone to watch the race again without wondering whether the winners are cheating. Very sad.

    But at last the plot and the dirty deeds are revealed to the world. Now maybe we can start on our politicians…

    • Good to hear from you. Yes, the entire Lance story is a sad commentary on sports today! Blessings! Joe

  3. yes, it is extremely sad. I, too, had thought he was telling the truth, such was not to be.

  4. Lance Armstrong is not in the minority. The use of Enhancing drugs is quite prevalent among most professional athletes. Last season the leading hitter on the San Francisco Giants, Melkey Cabrera was suspended for over 50 games for using enhancing drugs. What of Barry Bonds, Jose Conseco, Sammy Sosa, etc? I am not excusing Lance Armstrong. I am just as disapponted by his behavior as you, but I realize that he is not the only super star who has cheated. It is an epidemic among pro players.

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