The Latest Edition of “Bringing Down Lance”

You don’t need to be a cycling fan to know that Lance Armstrong is in trouble (again).  My local newscast covered it.  It showed up in my Google+ feed.  And of course, there are keen analyses at all of the usual places.  (See any of the stories at VeloNews.com or Neil Browne’s excellent (and cynical) analysis.  The Fat Cyclist posted his take, which comes from a fairly non-cycling point of view.)  And even though I started this post several days ago, I wanted to finish it up.  I want to get it off my chest and I think it’s a little different take than the ones that focus on the doping itself.

For me it comes down to what the purpose of USADA is.  Expanding the acronym yields part of the answer: the United States Anti-Doping Agency.  So they’re clearly out to combat doping in sport.  Living with young children means answer the question “why” a lot.  It also means you start asking the question yourself, if only preemptively.  So why does USADA oppose doping?  Their website leaves no doubt: “Preserve the Integrity of Sport,” “Inspire True Sport,” and “Protect the Rights of U.S. Athletes.”  I don’t think the last two goals are relevant to this situation.  It’s all about the so-called “Integrity of Sport.”  Again, why?  Integrity is a noble end, to be sure.  But integrity as it applies to sport?  So what?

Nobody wants to play with a cheater.  By eliminating the cheaters,  you encourage participation and spectator interest in sport.  That, I believe, is the true reason USADA exists.  They encourage the participation in and spectating of sport.

And that is why it feels like USADA is shooting itself in the foot with this on-going investigation.  Lance Armstrong spurs interest in everything he does.  After he raced Leadville, interest in that race shot up.  While he was winning his Tours de France, he did more for road cycling in the United States than any other individual.  With his attention turned to triathlon, people were paying attention to that.  I can’t be the only person in the world who actually started paying attention to Ironman competitions after he started taking part.  Part of the sanctions levied against Armstrong at the moment include prohibiting him from competing in those events until the investigation is complete.  And that means people will stop paying attention.

Maybe Armstrong did dope in 1999.  That was 13 years ago. What do we gain by rewriting that sporting history?  Does that fall into USADA’s scope of work?  What has Armstrong done since then?  Started a foundation that has helped thousands of people negotiating cancer treatment.  Inspired thousands of athletes to engage in various sports.  What will bringing him down accomplish (provided they actually can do that)?

I am beyond caring what Armstrong did in 1999.  I am all about what Armstrong is doing now.  He continues to inspire me to more.  USADA seems distant and out of touch, clinging desperately to an ideal that is hurting them more than helping them.

Like the Fat Cyclist said, we have only opinions and they are well-set now.  Mine is that Armstrong is an imperfect hero and we really need to focus on today and the future instead of revisionist history.

My mother saw me wearing my new Livestrong “Road to Kona” shirt last week and asked if I had heard the news.  I told her I was wearing it in spite of the news.

I remember reading that Floyd Landis’ parents showed up to a race with a  sign that simply said, “We support Floyd Landis.”  Call this post my “I support Lance Armstrong” sign.

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3 thoughts on “The Latest Edition of “Bringing Down Lance””

  1. Sounds like you don’t want your hero cut down and wish to remain in a happy world where Armstrong did no wrong.

    Put aside all the doping allegations for a moment and consider this in sizing up Armstrong: If he did dope, what does it tell you about his character if he has been ready and willing to lie about it for the past dozen or more years?

    Is Armstrong the liar (if doping allegations are proven) someone we want to put on a pedestal as a role model for our children? Do we want to emulate him?

    I think the answer for most will be NO.

    1. I am under no impressions that Armstrong is a saint. Reading his biographies makes that pretty clear. But you’re right. In some ways that are important to me, Armstrong is a hero (or at least an inspiration). To watch people attack him certainly bugs me.

      It’s definitely possible Armstrong has spent the last decade lying to himself and to the world at large. If that is shown to be the case, I will be the first to clean out my closet of Armstrong fandom. I’m just not ready to do that yet.

      1. @ Kitcishke:

        You have the natural reaction of people who had idolized Armstrong for so many years. I don’t want to undermine what he has done for cancer research, etc, but I do have a problem with his attitude. Frankly, that for the most part has put me in the anti-Armstrong camp. I also have done quite a bit of digging and feel the evidence is there to show he did dope.

        Yeah, everyone else was doing it too, but they have now admitted their transgressions.

        In order to reinvent himself, he must apologize publicly.

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