One of the biggest news stories this past week has been the rumor that Lance Armstrong is considering coming clean about his use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) during his cycling career. Earlier in the week, the New York Times reported that an anonymous source from within the Armstrong camp had told them that Lance was hoping that his admission of guilt would allow him to serve a suspension then resume competing in athletic events such as marathons and triathlons. When the story broke, lawyers for the cyclist denied that there was any truth to the story.
Now we’re told that Armstrong sat down with the queen of television Oprah Winfrey and a 90 minute interview will air on her OWN network on January 17 – exactly one week from today. The interview was reportedly conducted in Lance’s home in Austin, Texas recently, but what exactly he tells Oprah remains a topic of speculation. The question at this point is does it really matter what he has to tell us? Does anyone even care?
At one point, Lance was amongst the most respected and revered personalities on the planet. People looked up to him not only because he beat cancer and came back to win seven Tour de France titles but because his Livestrong Foundation was a symbol of strength for those who were also afflicted with the disease. He was an outspoken proponent for increased funding for cancer research and we held him up as a paragon of sportsmanship, determination and sacrifice.
Earlier this year that all came crashing down when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a report detailing Lance’s use of PED’s while competing as a pro cyclist, something that the USADA called “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program” in history. The report hit Armstrong’s reputation like an atom bomb, destroying the good will that he had built up with the American public and wiping out any sympathy and understanding that fans had for the man. After all, he had been telling us for years that he was clean, that he never tested positive for a banned substance and the allegations were a witch hunt perpetrated by those who were jealous of his success and wanted to see him brought down.
For a long time we believed him too. After all, we all wanted to believe that our almost-mythical hero was as good and clean as he claimed to be. Even when everyone else in the sport was testing positive and more and more cyclists were admitting to doping, we still held out hope that Lance was different. Deep down, we knew the truth, we just didn’t want to admit it. That was the part of the story that we didn’t want to believe.
There was a point last summer where I feel Armstrong could have salvaged his reputation and possibly his career. Had he taken ownership of the mistakes he made while riding, came clean about what he had done and asked forgiveness, we would have been eager to forgive. Had he said that he was willing to help the USADA in their investigations into cycling, we would have probably applauded him for his candid approach and frank declaration of his wrong-doing. Lance would have served a suspension and would probably be planning his return to competition – and the spotlight – in just a few months time. Instead he clung to the story that he had given us for years, even as his world crumbled around him.
Make no mistake, if Armstrong comes clean about his doping to Oprah he is only doing it for himself. At this point, the rest of us have moved on and don’t really care any more. He has already given us an indication of what kind of man he is and now any admission, at least as far as I’m concerned, is too little and too late.
I will always respect Lance Armstrong as an athlete. I truly believe that he was the best rider in all seven of those TdF’s that he won. He has also proven his athletic ability in a number of marathons and triathlons over the past few years, in some cases smashing course records in the process. There is no question that he is a physical specimen that few can match. But his steadfast denials of his wrong-doings, even in the face of mounting evidence, not to mention his ruthless attacks on any who spoke out against him, give us a different look at Lance Armstrong the man.
Unfortunately, that isn’t a very pretty portrait.
What do you think? Is there anything Lance can say that will convince you to support him again? Can he win us back at all? I guess we’ll find out in a week.
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