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As I sat and read the news surrounding Lance Armstrong’s denial and ultimate confession that he doped while competing, I came to the following conclusion: I don’t care that Armstrong doped while cycling; I care that he lied.
Let’s break down Lance Armstrong. The man became a professional athlete at age 16, won SEVEN Tour de France titles, raced in marathons and Ironmans, has other winnings too lengthy to disclose here and–oh yeah– beat stage-three testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. That’s four pretty important parts of your body. But Armstrong? He came out on top and won five of his seven Tour de France titles after that near-death ordeal.
I list that brief biography for two reasons. One is that those statistics are hard to believe, regardless of the cyclist. Even for the most naive die-hard athlete admirer among us, the trophies and medals Armstrong has piled up are hard to fathom. So when rumors started to swirl (almost a decade ago) that this superhero may have had some extra-assistance, it wasn’t a shock. Given the outrageous numbers and the fact that cycling athletes are the worst doping offenders in the Olympics, it wasn’t hard to imagine.
The second reason I mention it is because when I compare those records with the doping headlines, honestly, I’m not that upset. When you’ve put in thousands of hours of brutal training, raced the hardest and most prestigious cycling race in the world multiple times and have laid in a hospital bed post-brain surgery not knowing if you’ll ever get on a bike again, or even live through the next year, it’s not a surprise you would turn to drugs to keep the dream alive. So the man doped.
He also did all that stuff I listed above. Without the drugs, those feats are nothing short of amazing. I remember the USA Pro Challenge this past summer in Boulder. I barely made it up Flagstaff, walking my bike the whole way, only to watch the professionals zoom by me like it was a leisurely ride. Drama and doping aside, that kind of athleticism is awe-inspiring.
What upsets me about this whole ordeal is the lying. According to a CBS news story, Armstrong and his co-conspirators “kept secret for years and intimidated riders into silently following their illegal methods.” When allegations came back up this past summer, Armstrong continued to deny allegations even though the “U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued a damning, 1,000-page report.” He was forced to leave his charity, Livestrong, and it was de-facto that Armstrong had doped, but he continued lying until a slimy decision to “come clean” on Oprah as if he was some B-list celebrity admitting they once had an eating disorder.
Armstrong should never have lied. Sure, most of us will never understand this man’s determination and dedication–the kind that ultimately became his tragic flaw– but when you feel the walls closing in, you bail and cut your losses. Instead, the myth surrounding the “Great” Lance Armstrong is shattered as he allegedly spent money covering up his actions, hurt the lives of those that wanted to tell the truth and, like a stubborn child in over his head, denied the facts in front of him.
I don’t care that Armstrong doped. Many athletes have done it before him, and many will after. Drugged or clean, the man still achieved something no one else has and, as a kid growing up in Texas, Armstrong was a god and the reason my friends and I spent hours racing each other on our bikes. But the fact that he lied, bribed and tried to run from his own faults and wrongs is what will forever bother me. The hero of the sporting world has become nothing more then a villainous sham, and it wasn’t the drugs that did it. It was the words that came out of his mouth.
Contact CU Independent Editor-In-Chief Isa Jones at Alexandra.firstname.lastname@example.org.