This morning the top news is that Lance Armstrong is “finished with this nonsense”, he’s finished with the constant investigation and the multi-year “unconstitutional witch hunt” that he has been the victim of from the World and United States Anti-Doping Agency. He continues to say he is innocent, but enough is enough. He lobbied Congress, the Olympic Committee and who knows how many others to make this stop, but nobody stepped up. The result? He will be stripped from the record books, lose his 7 Tour de France Titles and be a footnote for our children and our children’s children. Thank goodness, the evil doer is finally brought to justice and the Eliott Ness hero gets his man.It’s over. Or is it?
First, why is this a surprise to anyone? Cyclists in Armstrong’s era took drugs. Period. Who are they going to pass his titles down to? With everyone else also taking performance enhancing drugs, some kid pedaling around on a newspaper route is going to be incredibly surprised when someone hands him 7 medals, because he’s probably the only cyclist who wasn’t taking drugs at that time.
And as for the villagers who can now douse the flames of their torches, you may want to reflect on exactly what you succeeded in doing. You have succeeded in proving that water is indeed wet. Seriously, who didn’t believe that he was using performance enhancing drugs? If you didn’t, you can stop clicking your heels together, too. But that’s not the point.
I could care less about titles or accolades or records. Let people have these as they are meant for those who care about tokens and to titillate a culture that still harkens back to celebrity worship. What matters is that Lance used this twisted celebrity to do actual good, or real and permanent good as Andrew Carnegie would say. Does it matter if what drove him was hubris, ego or the guilt that he had cheated and needed to give back to make amends for his actions, to do something that made up for the fact that he was being idolized and didn’t deserve it? How much good makes up for the drug use? How about these very facts that describe the impact in one year that his foundations has had:
- More than $18.7 million invested in research grants.
- More than $9.6 million granted towards cancer
survivorship and testicular cancer research.
- More than $1.7 million granted invested in the
development of 5 comprehensive cancer survivorship
centres across the country.
- Nearly $1.6 million invested in survivorship education
and outreach initiatives.
- More than $2 million invested in 104 community
program partner initiatives.
According to the 2011 Annual Report, since 1997, The Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised nearly $500 million to fight cancer with an exemplary suite of services and programs that has served more than 2.3 million cancer survivors. You like facts? Here’s one major fact. If Lance Armstrong hadn’t doped, he wouldn’t have been able to do any of this and millions of people have benefited because of the way he used this faux power and influence. Countless lives have been saved due to the awareness that was created by his celebrity and his foundation. Is the doping agency right? Probably yes, but we may never know for certain. Let’s say, yes they are. Congratulations, they won an argument. How many of us have met people that “have to be right” even if right hurts people in the end. This is the ridiculousness of this whole escapade. Do I celebrate Lance? As a cyclist, yes as even if he did use performance enhancing drugs, I have to appreciate how ridiculously difficult it is to win one Tour de France when everyone else around you is using whatever they can to win as well, let alone seven. Do I condone what he did? Absolutely not. But then again, I think Pete Rose should be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. My view of humanity is that we all make mistakes and do stupid things that most of us regret later in life, sometimes minutes afterwards. To me, it isn’t about making the mistake, it’s about who or what gets hurt by your action and what you do with the rest of your life to make up for it – to improve the condition of others. In Lance’s case, the main people that were hurt are other doping cyclists and if you evaluate the entire body of his work, and his contributions to society, they far outweigh any silliness of who gets a medal or a television contract or an ESPY. Yes, it’s over. Let’s hope the real and permanent good being done through his name and his foundation isn’t.