The greatest and worst fallacy in American sports

by Published: Jan 23, 2013

The legacy of man is not decided by his words, but his actions. Actions change things; actions cause response and con­se­quences, good or bad.

For Lance Armstrong—the great­est cyclist in the his­tory of the sport, an American and a can­cer survivor—his actions could not bring any more consequences.

On Thursday, Jan. 17, Armstrong sat wide-eyed, sunken faced across from America’s ulti­mate sym­pa­thetic fig­ure Oprah, ready to answer ques­tions that had haunted him for years. These ques­tions vis­i­bly aged a man who was once a great American hero and looked up to by can­cer patients everywhere.

Now gray­ing and lined, he sat and awaited the bar­rage of ques­tions he needed to answer to sat­isfy so many that he had brought down and black­mailed over his tenure as the face of cycling.

Oprah asked sim­ple straight­for­ward ques­tions, to which Armstrong answered can­didly with one word he had avoided for so long: “Yes.”

Yes, he used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Yes, he used syn­thetic hor­mones that improved oxy­gen flow to his mus­cles (EPO). Yes, he used testosterone.

The word “yes” con­tin­ued to fall out of his mouth, as though he regret­ted none of it. He didn’t assume through­out his career that lying about PEDs was wrong.

He jus­ti­fied tak­ing testos­terone to com­pen­sate for a lack thereof after sur­viv­ing cancer.

He started Livestrong, his great crown­ing achieve­ment, to help those who fought can­cer as he did. Then in shame, he stepped aside from it, as he should.

Most heroes in sports in the 1990s and 2000s have a huge, ugly aster­isk next to their names. Their accom­plish­ments say, “You can do it (by cheat­ing)!” Why work hard when you won’t be the best? This atti­tude has wiped the real sports heroes from this planet.

What hap­pened to Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron and Cal Ripken Jr.? Instead, we have been given once small men who sud­denly swell to gar­gan­tuan size and hit mam­moth home runs out of ball­parks, defeat­ing hon­est records.

As Hades’ min­ions so fit­tingly chant in the Disney movie “Hercules,” “The hero’s a zero.” That is what remains of the legacy of Armstrong.

When asked if it was humanly pos­si­bly to win those seven Tour de France races in a row, he responded uncon­vinc­ingly with, “In my opin­ion, no.”

This once great man is now for­ever known as a cheater, a bad sport, and worse, a blackmailer.

He scolded the French who hated him and his manip­u­la­tive ways. Armstrong was the one who tried to take down another for­mer team­mate in Tyler Hamilton, who admit­ted to the world all of the trans­gres­sions of the seven-time Tour de France cham­pion. He black­mailed the fam­ily of a for­mer teammate.

As he sat with Oprah, it was clear Armstrong was again try­ing to con­trol oth­ers’ per­cep­tions of him. Choosing to meet Oprah rather than, say, Bill O’Reilly to admit would surely soften the blow, right?

Is he sorry for dop­ing? Or is he sorry he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar? More than likely, as most ath­letes are, he is just sorry he got caught.

“I will spend the rest of my life try­ing to earn back trust and apol­o­giz­ing to peo­ple,” Armstrong said to Oprah. “The rest of my life.”

He says it as though he’s the vic­tim of the cul­ture of dop­ing that has con­sumed cycling. Armstrong isn’t get­ting his way for the first time, and it’s clear that he does not like it one bit.

Exasperated, Oprah con­tin­ued to talk to Armstrong.

“You’re suing peo­ple, and you know they’re right,” Oprah said. “What is that?”

Staring any­where but at Oprah and the cam­era, Armstrong fum­bled around guiltily as the grilling continued.

I don’t feel the least bit sorry for a man I used to call my hero. The sting of find­ing that your heroes were frauds is an unfath­omable feel­ing. One by one, my favorite ath­letes have fallen from grace, and few are left. The ones that are, I can barely remem­ber them as they were.

Armstrong is left to sit at home, star­ing at his feet, won­der­ing whether or not it was pos­si­ble to inspire the world with­out cheat­ing, the ques­tion that will remain with him