In the fallout from part one of Lance Armstrong's cathartic interview with Oprah Winfrey, we've been reading a lot of assessments from the newsrooms across America. The thread running through a consistent number of op-ed pieces mention the painful betrayal perpetrated by a hero against his fans. Words like egoist and sociopath are also being bandied about freely.
You too may be one who feels betrayed this athlete who once personified the words perseverance and determination and raised millions for cancer research after beating his own illness and winning seven Tour de Flahblah-sacrebleu! Maybe you too think that by his aloof and by some assessments evasive responses beyond the opening string of Yes, Nos - display a man who cares nothing for anyone but himself. You may be right, on both counts.
But, without deliberately echoing some of Armstrong's own statements in the interview, and the risk of sounding like an apologist...so what? He was doped up and only was able to compete through performance enhancing means. As with nearly all of his competitors. Sure, they were all cheating, but he was still the best of all the drugged up cheaters.
If he was the first or the only cyclist to cheat then I could understand the backlash from fans who feel betrayed, but what Armstrong did for years is a practice so pervasive in his sport that the few guys who aren't doping, (at least not anymore) are fucking famous for that fact alone.
The thing Armstrong is guilty of is being a litigious, slanderous, vile, psychopathic, ruthless, myopic bully, BUT the sport, and almost entirely because of the fans, rewards and reinforces those characteristics. Just as a Wall Street shark or professional baseball players jacked up on Axl-Roids, they'll do what they do with no scruples because you'll reward them by buying swag and tickets.
If he broke your heart by doping and denying it then I blame you for willful ignorance and complacency because between the congressional hearings into steroids in baseball a few years ago and the numerous investigations by the Tour de France, it should be common knowledge that for an athlete to be able just to COMPETE, not win, just be AVERAGE, they've got to enhance themselves artificially.
Ben Johnson, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong --
The fans don't complain for a second as long as their heroes win.
I'll summarize with my favourite quote from the documentary Bigger, Faster, Stronger which I encourage you to seek out on Youtube or Netflix as it covers a wide range of perspectives on this topic. In an interview, Dr. Wade Exum, a former director of Anti-Doping for the American Olympic Committee, offered this rationale for the pervasive drug use that saw a gold medal forfeited by Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson to American Carl Lewis in 1988 (both of whom were using enhancements):
"...it's the system that actually teaches athletes to think that way. You know, for me the whole "level playing field" was a myth. If we could not do anything to take doping out of sports then doping was meant to be in sports."