Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thoughts on the Lance Armstrong PED scandal

In a previous rant, I declared that Armstrong was innocent until proven guilty by a positive drug test.  However, based on what I have read about the USADA report and Armstrong's silence, I now believe that he is "most probably guilty."  If I had won those Tours legitimately,  I sure would not have dropped the fight no matter what the cost and it is certainly not in his nature to quit. He knew that if he ever had to testify in court, he would have to admit doping or risk a prison term for perjury.

My opinion of the man himself remains mixed.  On one hand, it is no secret that he has been a womanizer for many years and I certainly do not approve of any of that.  If the allegations are indeed true, he is one of sport's biggest cheaters and liars of all time.  I agree that the titles should be stripped and his sponsorships terminated.  On the other hand, he is the embodiment of perseverance to fight through brain, lung and testicular cancer with little chance of survival yet come back to even compete again at an elite level.  Clean or not, that's inspiring.  Also, he has donated millions of his own fortune to cancer charities and helped raise more than half a billion dollars through his Livestrong foundation.  He certainly seems to have a heart that is full of compassion not only for cancer patients but anyone else struggling with a chronic disease.  He spends much of his free time visiting and encouraging cancer patients.  After winning a triathlon, he spotted a man in a wheelchair and gave him a hug before talking to reporters.  Again, I can't help but admire those qualities regardless of whether he cheated or not.

I have heard some comments that have said that since everyone doped, Lance Armstrong is still the true champion.  I disagree.  It is not a "level field" if all drugs are legalized.  The athlete who is willing to take mega doses and risk long-term health has the advantage over one who followed a less risky doping program.  Moreover, some athletes will gain more than others from the same doping program depending on all the complexities in their bodies.  That said, I'm not quite as hard on Armstrong as I am with dopers in other sports.  Even in track and field, I believe that it is possible to be a clean champion.  Call me naive if want.  At the height of the steroid era in baseball, less than half of MLB players were juiced according to most research.  I'd bet money that Ken Griffey Jr. hit those 600+ home runs clean.  In cycling, it is common to find that the top 10 are all linked to performance enhancing drugs so the argument that it is impossible to win clean does bear more weight.  Put yourself in Armstrong's position.  You know that you can't win clean but by winning, you have the opportunity to do so much more good through your foundation.  There is no way that Livestrong would be in its current position if Armstrong was an also ran at the Tour.  Again, I do not excuse cheating under any circumstance but I really do understand the dilemma.

 I do believe that the USADA was "out to get" Armstrong.  Nobody else who actually tested positive was banned for life, not only from cycling but also from major marathons and triathlons.  A 2-4 year ban is appropriate if the allegations are proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  Lifetime?  That's overkill especially when many others who have tested positive or admitted doping get little more than a slap on the wrist. I admire that at the age of 41 and retired from professional cycling, Armstrong remains competitive though no longer a contender in a world class field.  I can understand a lifetime ban from cycling but do not favor stiff sanctions from elite triathlons or marathons with drug testing.

Now for some controversy:
It's been on my heart to pray for Armstrong.  He is an avowed agnostic due in large part to the fact that his supposedly "Christian" stepfather was a hypocrite.  In his autobiography, he wrote that if he is judged by God, he would hope that it would be based on "living a true and honest life" and being good to others rather than his unbelief in the Bible or organized religion.  I won't get deep into my theology on this blog but this is a common problem for all of humanity.  We cannot even live up to our own standards of what is right and wrong.  Just imagine how dirty and sinful we are in comparison to God's righteousness.  God sent his Son to pay for our sins but we still need to repent.  Lance Armstrong could certainly be a powerful witness for Christ.
Any comments are welcome.

1 comment:

Yo Momma Runs said...

Great write-up on this issue!

After reading Lance's book, I thought he seemed like a jerk. We read the book for book club, and some speculated the his concentration on and dedication to his sport may have led him to not fully progress in other areas of his life, like marriage and personal relationships. That aside, he has done a ton of fundraising, and he is an amazing athlete and survivor. So I respect that. But I wish he would have fought the allegations more, and I wish we could know for sure if he (and who else) was doping. Also, I agree that it is ridiculous to ban him from all races at this point when he isn't competing to win.