To say it’s been a rough past couple of weeks for Lance Armstrong is a massive understatement. In addition to a scathing report from the U.S. anti-doping agency about him, Armstrong has lost nearly all of his sponsorships, stepped down as Chariman of the popular charity Livestrong, and has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Pretty much, the world has decided that because Lance Armstrong used steroids, he no longer exists. Or at least, they’re attempting to render amnesia upon everyone, but it’s not possible.
Lance Armstrong doped, that’s about as clear as can be, and indeed it’s been clear for several years. Fourteen of his former teammates testified against him. That’s more than the number of victims that testified against Jerry Sandusky in his molestation trial. However, just because Lance Armstrong cheated in a sport where cheating is routine does not mean that we can just forget everything about him. Here’s what happened: Lance Armstrong had testicular cancer. He came back from that cancer that severely threatened his life, went back to being a world-class athlete, and helped raise hundreds of million dollars to fight the world’s most hated disease today. And because he doped, we can all act like we’re better than he is? Yeah, right. I’m sure if you had the opportunity to have Armstrong’s story again, you’d take it. We all would.
We all like to shake our heads and sigh when someone gets caught cheating, forgetting that we want to see the results no matter how it gets done. It was the same as the 1998 home run race, and USC football’s 2005 championship. Erasing the titles is a meaningless cop-out. I’m not going to suddenly think to myself, “yeah, 1999-2005 cycling was so lame, I don’t even know who won.” Lance Armstrong got me to care about cycling. He got me to support Livestrong, he inspired me that you can come back from a near death-sentence and accomplish things that seem nearly impossible even when you’re in peak physical strength. That hasn’t changed, just because he took steroids. We’re not living in a virtual reality here, and we can’t choose which events we accept and which we don’t.
blog from Andy Sussman–Towson Grad Student