Lance Armstrong is known for beating cancer. But he apparently tried to rid himself of another type of cancer last week by revealing his long-time lie.
After years of vehement denial of his doping, the world’s most famous man on two wheels admitted that he cheated his way to seven Tour de France titles.
Of course, the fact that he cheated is not particularly shocking to us. The doping talk and investigations around Armstrong have gone on for years. Likewise, the Tour de France ranks somewhere around yachting’s America’s Cup in American sports interests — meaning somewhere below bowling and fake wrestling.
But we pay attention to Armstrong. He attained “greatest American hero” status. There are so many terrible cancer stories in our lives that many held on desperately to a spectacular feel-good cancer tale — a man who not only conquered cancer but then dominated the world in his chosen passion.
He also raised millions of dollars for cancer research, which many consider his greatest achievement.
This week, pundits have spoken ad nauseum about Armstrong’s legacy. What will his confession mean to his place in history? Do his cancer-fighting fund-raising efforts outweigh his years of deception?
Essentially, we must contemplate whether a good end (money for a good cause) justifies a bad means (cheating)? By that logic, you also have to consider: do crooks get a pass if they’re charitable? Or, does that depend on the crook, the crime and the charity?
No doubt, when it comes to sports, many now have “steroid fatigue.” We’ve seen too many fall-from-grace stories. If we see an athlete suddenly appearing as a physical superhuman, we hear that voice inside, “Hey, wait a minute.”
And then, as fans, we’re hit with an internal moral question: Do we really care about the integrity of a game and the health of fellow humans, or do we just want to be entertained? In case you haven’t noticed, we seem to send mixed messages on that one.
While cycling stories don’t interest many, the psychology of deception is intriguing both at the individual and societal scale.
And this tale includes both.
The cycling society carried a lie for years — just like baseball. And many participants apparently felt they had to dope or be outdone by those who did. Perhaps Armstrong was just the best doper in the bunch. Certainly, the doping lie is a shared culpability. Many are in on that problem, which extends far beyond cycling. And the sporting officials, just like in other sports, had a financial interest in keeping the lie alive. Because people love a drama, even if it’s fiction. The “superhuman” narrative is a real money maker.
But at some point, the lie had to define Armstrong in his own mind.
His ill-gotten fame, his lie, brought a great good to society: money to fight cancer.
But he also got fabulously rich off the lie. And he had to repeat his lie non-stop to the public to maintain his lifestyle and his reputation. Meanwhile, he tried to personally tear down those who wanted to expose the truth. Such effort requires a dying inside, a killing off of a conscience. Of course, none of us are perfect. We all have certain truths we want to ignore or even lie about. But Armstrong established a global identity based on fraud. It has to take a toll.
Perhaps this will be one lesson from the famous racer: A lie is a form of cancer, but it’s a mental sickness, not a physical malady. The lie festers inside a person in parasitic fashion, eating away at self worth. The corruption of truth has tentacles that extend beyond the original lie and metastasize into new deceptions to cover up old ones.
Armstrong was known for his first form of cancer, which he successfully beat. Now he’s known for a totally different form.
And that won’t be so easily cured.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
Fame, wealth, and power have an undeniable propensity to corrupt. Why Americans continue to look to the famous, wealthy, and powerful as moral beacons and folk heroes is beyond me. It's nonsensical, really.
When we try to envision our children's future, do we look fondly ahead to days of divorce, drug addiction, depression, narcissism, and moral bankruptcy? If not, then we should guard against instilling in them a deep admiration of and desire for celebrity. We have all heard hundreds of stories of the rich and famous who were propelled to stardom by the extraordinary efforts of their parents, only to have their lives end up in shambles. It's just such a shame.
So please, America, let's end our star-struck obsession with the people on magazine covers. If you don't know how the story usually ends, you haven't been paying attention.
"Do we really care about the integrity of a game and the health of fellow humans, or do we just want to be entertained?"
Clearly the latter for those who buy the tickets, watch the sports, purchase the paraphenalia and make a big, honkin' deal about "their" teams. I don't think they care one bit about doping or health. Meanwhile, they are all making a few people obscenely wealthy with money the average person should be putting into savings. And now the taxpayers are paying for another new stadium in Atlanta for one of the wealthiest people in the nation who could easily pay for it all himself, but who will profit from it enormously at the expense of the idiot "fans".
The dumbing down of American citizens is the insidious cancer ruining our country. Too many people are so focused on Honey Boo Boo, T'eo and the like that they have no time, energy or mental attention to expend on truly important matters and they also don't care about that anyway. It's not fun; it's not interesting; it's not anything they can scream and yell about.
You'd think this recession would have put a bit of a damper on all that, but people will do what they are manipulated to do by politicians, marketers, retailers and con artists, at least it seems the majority will. I would ask those folks to wise up, pay attention and get smart, please.
I agree . We tout them as hero's
place them all high upon a pedestal.
I never have understood why we place such high value on people who actually create absolutely no value.
They get paid so much for entertainment when people who actually create wealth and value get paid so little.
Its very disturbing . Adults playing games acting like children . People pretending to be somebody they are not etc.etc .