I'm about as far from the athletic type as you can imagine--a sedentary softie with absolutely no interest in cycling or any sport for that matter, save for the occasional Olympic figure skating or track and field competition. What does interest me however is excellence. I've been known to watch "Real Sports" on HBO, and many of my favorite documentaries have been about sportsmen--the history of baseball, the glory days of boxing, etc. I would never watch an actual football game, yet one of my favorite shows is "Friday Night Lights".
It's not the sport itself, but the athlete I find compelling. To take a peek into the mind and heart of a champion and glean universal lessons about hard work, discipline, and the heights of the human spirit seems to me worthwhile. Like many, I have a special admiration for athletes, and Lance Armstrong was one of those I admired.
With only the faintest idea of what the Tour de France was, I knew Armstrong had won it seven times. He also battled testicular cancer, inspired millions with his LiveStrong campaign, and dated Sheryl Crow (one of my faves). All the while I watched him refute allegations of performance enhancing drug use with indignant vigor. He was a survivor, a champion's champion. His accusers were just jealous.
Then last night on "60 Minutes" Tyler Hamilton, Armstrong's former pal and team mate, was clear-eyed and credible as he told of a culture of doping, blood transfusions, and even a cover-up by Armstrong himself when he tested positive for a banned substance just before one of his Tour performances. If Hamilton is to be believed, Lance has been lying to me all these years.
Watching time and again as one athlete after another is forced to admit to "juicing" in the face of overwhelming evidence, I've remained ambivalent about the practice. Sure cheating is wrong, but if it's true that all the top-level athletes are doing so, then it's more about leveling the playing field than gaining an unfair advantage. Could it be that if everyone is juiced, the winner is still the rightful winner? It certainly isn't fair to work your ass off your whole life only to be beaten by someone who is "enhanced". This is a tough call, even for an honorable person, and I can't say what I would do if faced with such a choice. I do know I could not have lived so long with such a public lie. I would have confessed years ago out of sheer exhaustion and shame.
Lance, have some respect for your fans and the sport you claim to love. If you are indeed guilty as charged, it's truth time.
60 Minutes Part I
60 Minutes Part II