There’s a lesson to be learned from this whole Lance Armstrong debacle.
I’m just not entirely sure what it is.
Perhaps the lesson is: “Don’t do drugs.” But you’d have to qualify that by saying, “Don’t do drugs or you’ll win seven Tour de France titles, earn countless millions in endorsement deals, start a charity that both helps and inspires those with cancer and get viewed as a national hero, but eventually get outed as a drug user and have to forfeit the titles, though you will get to keep all the money and the memories of those good times.”
I’m certainly not defending Lance Armstrong’s actions. He (allegedly) doped and, after years of publicly denying it, finally got caught. He deserves to have his titles taken away and to be publicly shunned if he is, indeed, a cheater. Justice got served.
But somehow I just can’t imagine Armstrong regrets taking drugs. Sure, his life can’t be very fun at the moment, but that’s the trade off for cheating. The alternative would have been to not dope in a sport where reportedly everyone does it, meaning he would have been able to hold his head up high as the Hamlet of cycling, but probably never would have won those seven titles or earned those endorsement deals. Maybe he never even gets to date Sheryl Crow. But he does get the satisfaction of knowing he lost those matches nobly, instead of winning dishonestly. So, that’s, um, something, I suppose.
Perhaps the lesson is: “If you are going to cheat, make sure you don’t get caught until well after it no longer matters.” They may have taken Armstrong’s titles away, but deep down he still knows he won them. Most people will think of him as a seven time Tour de France winner, even if there’s an asterisk after his name in the record books. And he still reaped all the benefits of those wins.
Just like Reggie Bush got all the accolades that came along with winning the Heisman, even if that was ultimately taken away from him. And guys like Barry Bonds and Mark “I’m not here to talk about the past” McGwire got to have very lucrative and productive baseball careers without ever failing a steroid test, even though it’s widely accepted that they were both ‘roiding their brains out for years.
The more time goes by, the more sports records will be expunged. Major League Baseball will have a decade (or more) where no one is eligible for the Hall of Fame. College football will have so many overturned Heisman trophy winners and NCAA title winners that their records will fit on a cocktail napkin. And cycling … oh, who cares, no one in this country will pay any attention to cycling now that Lance Armstrong has been vilified.
Perhaps the lesson is: “Choose your heroes wisely.” Lance Armstrong became a symbol of hope for people with cancer. The Livestrong Foundation and Armstrong’s athletic prowess helped inspire those living with cancer to keep fighting and showed the rest of the world that people with cancer can still live vibrant and fulfilling life. Those yellow wristbands became a powerful symbol of hope.
Hopefully, there’s a second act to Armstrong’s life where he can still do good charitable works. And hopefully his charity lives on to do amazing things without having a stigma from having his name attached (even if he already stepped down from his position with the foundation). But things will always be tainted now.
Then there’s the kids. Throughout the country, all of those little kids who sported Livestrong bracelets while riding their bikes around their neighborhoods are having to deal with the fall of their hero. They are no doubt crestfallen as they struggle to comprehend what it all means.
On some level, I can relate. I still vividly remember being six years old and watching Hulk Hogan bodyslam Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III. I believed that if I listened to that bald, handlebar-mustached man when he told me to say my prayers and eat my vitamins that I could take over the world someday.
And even though I’m a grown ass man now, it still stings to see my former idol starring in a leathery sex tape with the wife of his “best friend.” Add that the reality show, the messy divorce and the trainwreck that was Hogan Knows Best and its been a messy fall from grace for the Hulkster.
But life will go on, more sports figures will rise and fall and somehow the world will keep on spinning. Perhaps there’s something important to be learned from this Lance Armstrong debacle, but I’m at a loss to find it.
As for me, the only thing I’ve learned is to stop cheering for sports icons and to only look up to the one man guaranteed never to let me down – Batman.
I recommend you take off the yellow bracelet and do the same.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.