Pursued for years by the USADA for using performance enhancers to help him achieve his record seven Tour de France wins, cyclist Lance Armstrong announced he would no longer fight the charges. As punishment for his indirect admission of guilt, he is having all seven titles and Bronze Medal from the 2000 Olympics stripped from him and is forever banned from competitive cycling.
And Fitness Cheerleader wants to know my thoughts about this…
If I were a black-and-white (BW) person, I would say he got what he deserved for cheating. As a shades-of-gray (G) person, I’m not so sure. Here is my own internal battle:
G: First, he never said he was guilty; he declares quite loudly he is innocent.
BW: But aren’t 99% of all people in jail claiming to be innocent too?
G: He said he is just tired of fighting the charges in an unfair battle.
BW: As a person who fought cancer (and won) and fought to win the Tour de France seven times, why would he not fight for the honor of his own name?
G: Whatever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty?’ He has taken multiple drug tests, planned and random, in various countries, since 1999 and NEVER tested positive. Doesn’t that count for anything?
BW: But lots of athletes know how to game the system to pass drug tests. Two of his teammates confirmed he did it.
G: Yes, after they cut a deal with the USADA to reduce their own penalties for doping. Maybe they were just jealous of his success. Or maybe they said what the USADA wanted to hear. If they were willing to cheat to win a bike race, what makes you think they wouldn’t be willing to lie to get themselves out of trouble?
G: You cast him as an evil villain. What about all his work for cancer? Livestrong? And the enthusiasm he brought to a relatively unnoticed sport? Let’s assume he did use drug enhancers. According to The New York Times a third of the top 10 finishers at the Tour de France were either investigated for doping or admitted it outright. It’s just part of the sport.
BW: Tell that to the 66% of the athletes who didn’t cheat…
And so, I am torn. If he did use drug enhancers I don’t think he’s a villain; I think he’s human. After all, if I considered taking steroids (see post: Can I Take Steroids?) for a silly bikini competition at Pflugerville High when the only thing at stake was my pride, why wouldn’t he consider it when world records and millions of dollars were at stake for him?
If he did do it, part of the sports-drug game is weighing the risks of reward versus getting caught and suffering the consequences. If he did do it, then he didn’t really earn the titles anyway, did he?
In the end, only he knows the truth. It doesn’t change the fact that he’s a great athlete who brought new fans to cycling and raised awareness about fighting cancer, something he can be proud of.
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