We’ve written occasionally over the years about Lance Armstrong, who once was considered the world’s greatest bicyclist and now has acknowledged being a world-class liar and all-round dirtball.
Not so many years ago we admire his courage and commitment in recovering from testicular cancer and then beating the Europeans at a sport they considered their private domain. He made Americans doubly proud when he led a team sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service.
And while cyclists all around him were shamed by doping scandals — tainting the entire sport — he stood above it all, passing one test after another. Somehow. He denied rumors of doping and attacked — even sued — those who dared question his integrity.
He wasn’t just a cancer survivor who established a foundation, LiveStrong, to support cancer research, Lance Armstrong was almost superhuman. No one wins the Tour de France seven times in a row.
Well, as it turned out, no one wins the Tour de France seven times in a row without cheating. In the last year he’s been stripped of his seven Tour victories and his Olympic medal, and photographs of him in the yellow jersey riding his bike and holding a glass of champagne now make good targets for dart throwers.
Worse than the cheating — a despicable act even if it was common on the bike circuit — was his utter defiance of and his willingness to ruin those who spoke the truth about his doping. When he told Oprah Winfrey, “I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times,” he underplayed a succession of calculated and loathsome acts over a number of years. It’s hard to square that person with the individual whose grit in the faceoff with cancer gave him a new lease on life and who established a foundation to give others hope.
He was, presumably, candid with Oprah, but it seemed almost eerie that he admitted his ruthlessness with the same assurance he showed in denying allegations of using banned substances and assailing his accusers.
He has, of course, long since fallen from grace. All that was left was for him to admit what too many eyewitnesses and teammates to discredit had sworn to. Banned from competitive cycling and approaching pariah status, his interview with Oprah is a step in rejoining the company of people who play by the rules.
He has, as he said, lost some people forever, but it was at least good to hear him say he would spend the rest of his life trying to atone for his actions. It might take that long, but he’s still young and he’s still strong.