Armstrong’s effects on people remain despite his disgrace
by Matt Lauzon – Opinions Editor
In an Oprah Winfrey special interview, which aired Thursday and Friday last week, Lance Armstrong admitted to doping and running the most sophisticated cheating ring that sport has ever seen. For years the world class cyclist maintained the lie of purity and being drug free in a sport that has a dark history of performance enhancement. His name now tarnished, his victories abolished, and his fan base alienated, Little can be said of Lance in praise.
His admission of the “big lie that [he] repeated a lot of times” and confession to a “cocktail of only EPO, and blood transfusions and testosterone” confirmed his all but ruined reputation. “I tried to control the narrative,” said Armstrong in his Austin home. “[If] I didn’t like what someone said, I turned on them.” One can’t begin to try to forgive him after a lengthy series of pathological lies.
Lance is no longer a hero, but his success redefined cycling in the Western world. He garnered the attention of millions of Canadians and Americans who would never dream of watching 200 men ride their bikes through the French countryside for 200 kilometres and three hours every day.
Needless to say, cheating in the Tour is extremely prevalent. It is arguably the most laborious event in the world of professional sports, and drug use within it is all but embraced by all of its participants. When asked about the commonality of performance enhancement in the Tour, Lance said it was a “part of the job.” Performance enhancement, he continued, is like why “we have to have air in our tires, or we have to have water in our bottles.” Not surprisingly, the top 10 placed racers of every recent year have either admitted to doping, have had proof presented of doping, or have had titles and victories revoked because of doping.
I’m not a supporter of cheating to win, but I empathize with Lance when he says he “viewed it as a level playing field.” When you’re entering the level of competition such as that in the Tour de France and you’re told you can be the best in the world, and when you’re told the competition is riddled with doping and you’re going to have to play the game to win, the question of whether or not to dope is easily answered.
But it’s not because of blind love or being in denial that I still respect Lance. It’s because he transcended the sport and made my life better. I never really enjoyed team sports growing up, and I eventually reached that point in life where I got restless and had tons of energy to burn without a good outlet. Over the summer when I was 11 years old, I would always see the Tour de France dominating the television, speculating that Armstrong would win his 6th Tour in a row and become the most celebrated cyclist ever. It was pretty cool: I had never heard of the Tour de France, and was flabbergasted when I learned what these cyclists had to go through every day for 3 weeks.
Be it because of intense rivalry with eternal second place finisher Jan Ullrich, or his other-worldly domination of the sport, Armstrong successfully introduced me to riding a bike without shocks. Not only did I want to ride a minimalist bike and go fast, I also got interested into doing a triathlon… I just didn’t know how to swim more than a pool’s length at the time. A month later I joined the local swim club, went to meets, lost a whole ton of races, and found an activity that is both fun and extremely tiring.
The long climbs through the beautiful mountains of France, the zipping through beautiful sunflower patches, and the wobbly cobble champagne drinking as they crossed the finish line in Paris drew me to the diversity of Europe: Armstrong and his team are rightfully credited with convincing me to travel throughout Europe and its gorgeous countries. Lance got me to explore the world and expand my mind.
He is no longer a hero; I do not respect the man as he has no reason to be praised. Lance should not be forgiven and needs to be dealt a great deal of humility. Regardless of his flawed character, however, he will continue to be held in my regard as a vanguard to my willingness to expand my world.