According to USADA, Lance Armstrong cheated and lied. He also inspired millions. Does losing his Tour de France titles really mean anything?
Lance Armstrong is a rare athlete. He is one of those who is able to reach the barrier of human physical ability and smash through it. He is one of those whose dominance demands attention. His legend draws the attention of everyone, as we wait to see what he will accomplish next. It’s a class that few athletes will ever be a part of, and some of the few who currently share this stratosphere with him are Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and LeBron James. In particular, Armstrong’s discipline (cycling), like track and swimming, is unique from skill sports like basketball, because it involves the purest of human physical feats. Maybe he is incapable of throwing a football or shooting a basketball, but he is able to bike 2,000 miles over mountains in 23 days, thanks to an aerobic capacity about twice the amount of a regular person.
He is an athletic hero.
He also is a cancer survivor who once faced a 60% possibility of death. He beat those odds and then beat the Tour de France competition seven times in a row. Besides these cycling accomplishments, he helped lead the fight against cancer, raising hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research.
He isn’t just an athletic champion; he’s an actual modern hero. He didn’t start a nation, lead armies, stage a coup, or even cure the disease that afflicted him. But what he has meant to so many millions of people is heroic in its own right.
He’s also a cheater and a liar.
He achieved his greatness because he illegally gave himself an unfair advantage by taking performance-enhancing drugs. And then he lied about it. To this day, although he will no longer fight the charges, he proclaims his innocence. I don’t know how I came up with this, but just think if you found out that Bruce Wayne was actually some sort of X-Man or an alien, and that’s why he could SPOILER defeat The League of Shadows (twice) and the Joker, save Gotham, capture droves of criminals, drive all sorts of crazy vehicles, be friends with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, and win dates with Marion Cotillard and Anne Hathaway. It would kind of ruin it right? Batman is cool because he’s just a normal millionaire. END OF SPOILER
But, hang on a minute, loads of guys use steroids in cycling. It’s much worse than even baseball. The champion of 2006, Floyd Landis, lost his title for using PEDs. So is it really that big a deal? In a way, he cheated to beat other cheaters, so it was a level playing field. Some would use this defense to claim Barry Bonds is the best baseball player of all-time.
But wait, Barry Bonds is a bad guy, right? And so are all of the other legends who cheated and lied about it. At least, that’s what seems to be the majority opinion. But Armstrong hasn’t faced that moniker yet. People aren’t destroying their Livestrong bracelets. A friend of mine has a signed Lance Armstrong jersey on his wall, and I don’t think that is coming down anytime soon. Why?
Throughout history, our heroes have often been flawed human beings. Martin Luther and I do not agree on everything from a theological standpoint (and I don’t think he was the nicest guy), but he is one of history’s most important people to me because of what he did to help create the Protestant church. A man named after him, M. L. King, Jr., did incredible work for the advancement of Black Americans, but his sexual morality was very troubled. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a mess of a person, but he may be history’s greatest musician. The list goes on, in all facets of life. However, despite these personal flaws, Martin Luther is still one of the most important people in the Christian religion, Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the greatest Americans (black or white) to ever live, and Mozart, like I said, is still a musical genius.
Lance Armstrong, despite cheating and lying, is still a hero. He still beat cancer. He still won seven straight Tour de France titles, and he still raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research. Maybe the news of him losing his titles hasn’t made the splash I would have expected because people are tired of steroid stories (and he was generally believed to be guilty) but I think it is more than that. I think Armstrong transcended the actual sport like few athletes have ever done. Barry Bonds didn’t inspire millions of people in their fight against a deadly disease: Lance did.
Please keep in mind that I am writing this article assuming that the ruling by USADA is true. If not, I’m sorry for calling Lance Armstrong a cheater and a liar. Like, comment, subscribe/follow, post to Facebook and Twitter, email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading!