This past week on Oprah, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong finally came out and admitted that he took performance enhancing drugs. The former seven-time Tour de France winner had his titles stripped over the summer and there was rampant speculation that Armstrong would give a confession for months.
Armstrong, whose marketability and popularity was based on an almost mythical story about overcoming cancer to become the best cyclist the world had ever seen, instead built his career around a huge lie.
Now Armstrong faces a lifetime ban from any sanctioned sports activity, from the Tour de France to a local 5K run.
“I will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people,” Armstrong told Winfrey.
In contrast to the relatively lenient opinion I had of steroid users like Barry Bonds in last week’s issue, Lance Armstrong deserves everything that is coming to him. Armstrong made millions off of a public perception as someone who worked hard to overcome cancer and cleanly become the best cyclist in the world.
As most of Armstrong’s cycling peers succumbed to steroid allegations during his reign as champion, Lance chided the sport for being dirty and happily took the moral high ground. Once allegations of steroid use by the World Doping Agency and other cyclists began to surface against Armstrong, he vehemently denied them and in fact took steps to defame other cyclists and even journalists.
Armstrong’s legal pursuit against two journalists and other cyclists like Floyd Landis for bringing forth doping allegations makes him the lowest possible figure of the steroid era in athletics. Other athletes and writers had their career and reputations ruined by Armstrong’s well-funded legal and PR team, and it was all for a lie.
The fact that Armstrong even let his children defend him through media statements shows that he was completely deranged with his image.
Armstrong has done a lot of good things through supporting cancer awareness through his charity Livestrong, but waiting years to disclose his steroid usage hurt the charity a lot more. Livestrong recently distanced itself from Armstrong, but it remains to be seen if the charity will continue to exist.
Armstrong’s lifetime ban from competition should be upheld because it serves as a valuable lesson for other athletes. Armstrong disregarded the rules of competition like many other athletes but defended himself in a way that was exceptional.
Since Armstrong decided to lie for years in a way that was completely different than any other athlete, he deserves any legal, criminal, or athletic action that comes against him.
I think it’s noble for Armstrong to finally climb out of the shadow of his lie, but the fact that he even thinks that he should be able to compete in a competitive sporting event again is disconcerting.
“If you’re asking me if I want to compete again, the answer is hell yes,” Armstrong said to Winfrey. “I’m a competitor.”
Self-serving statements like this show that Armstrong has not been properly humbled by his punishment and still needs to learn the gravity of his actions. Armstrong also did not give a full confession to the allegations against him. The former Tour de France winner continues to deny the allegation by author David Coyle that he pushed other teammates to use steroids.
Not surprisingly, Coyle was one of the people who was sued by Armstrong.
A crucial next step for Armstrong would be to testify before cycling officials and use names as applicable to fully heal the wounds of steroid use in cycling.
An interview with Oprah, albeit not a tell-all interview, is a good first step, but Armstrong must fully atone for all his transgressions and stop the delusion about participating in future athletic events.
It’s going to take a special kind of apology to change public opinion about a special kind of cheater.