Speaking of Sports: "Livestrong" or live the big lie?
True or false—Lance Armstrong?Since Lance Legend won his first Tour de France title back in 1999, there has been more than a little debate about whether or not those fetes of endurance and athletic prowess should be viewed from the yellow jersey of disingenuous derision. In short, has Lance Icon been lying like another politician during election season?Given Lance No Romance’s (see former Rock & Roll squeeze Cheryl Crowe) recent decision to bag the fight over the long-running doping allegations that have chased him like another doped and dogged peloton, the signs point decidedly toward the fact that Lance has cheated all along.Yes, I have put all my Livetrong bracelets on eBay. Maybe he figured that capitulation was his only hope against the dope.Integrity has crashed and burned… maybe he can save some of his reputation for another day.Armstrong says he will no longer defend himself against the charges levied by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that he repeatedly used performance- enhancing drugs as far back as 1996. The USADA has recommended that he be stripped of those seven Tour de France titles; they have banned him from cycling at age 41 and from any other sports that follow the so-called World Anti-Doping Code.My questions here are why did it take the USADA so long to make its case? Isn’t there a statute of limitations lurking around here somewhere? And it’s more than a little hypocritical at this late juncture to take those titles away. After all, how do the powers that be in a sport that has been known more for incredibility than credibility know that the guys who came in second in all those Tours that Armstrong won were clean?Yes, the USADA is flying around on a turbo-charged vendetta witches’ hunt broom here. Armstrong maintains that the pedantic USADA effort is unfair and nothing more than the proverbial witch hunt. He may be right about that.The problem is, in choosing to throw in the yellow jersey for the white flag, he gives the USADA charges even more credibility and credence. The case against Armstrong and the witnesses and data that have been amassed against Lance Legend are, by all accounts, considerable and damning. In a recently released book, The Secret Race, former teammate (1995-2001) Tyler Hamilton, who has also been banned from cycling after getting caught doping, said that Armstrong made the right decision to give up his case against USADA because he was facing “overwhelming evidence.”The problem with the sport of cycling is that a majority of its protagonists were doping at one time or another just to keep up with the Joneses in the lead pack. Of the 70 top 10 finishers in Armstrong’s seven Tour de France wins, 41 have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Yes, it’s a drug riddled and addled society we live in—from professional sports, college sports…Wall Street to Main Street. The schools (and I’m not just talking about the kids with a little pot in their lockers) are full of drug-addled fools. It’s too bad that we humans aren’t a stronger bunch. I know. That is terribly idealistic and romantic. Back to Armstrong and his conundrum. Armstrong joins an illustrious pantheon of inglorious sports infamy: Barry The Juice Bonds, Marion Jones, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. But unlike that foursome, Armstrong is bigger than all of them. Yes, he’s Lance Armstrong, stage four cancer survivor, a man who has raised more than $500 million for cancer research and a guy who has made wearing those cheap rubber Live strong bracelets pretty cool and de riguer. No, cheater or not, Armstrong is much bigger than any sanctimonious agency. He may be tarnished and someone who has inspired some and appalled others, but his iconic status lives on…right or wrong.And, to his credit and to the credit of his considerable entourage of medical practitioners and lawyers, there has never been any scientific evidence that he doped to get through the Pyrenees….maybe to get through the odd press conference with the arrogant French. No conclusive proof—ever—has been found in all those urine samples. As a glass is half empty kind of guy and somebody who doesn’t tend to believe anyone when their lips are moving (I came out of the womb a cynic), I don’t think Armstrong gets a Get Out Of Jail Free Card here. I respect Armstrong for what he has accomplished—doped or not, winning seven Tour de France titles is one of the most magnificent feats in the history of sport. He’s battled cancer and won…he’s established a foundation that is well known and well respected. Okay, so he’s a self-absorbed, narcissistic jerk. But he’s America’s self-absorbed, narcissistic jerk. Americans have a habit of forgiving with their mostly short-term memories. I suspect that Armstrong gets that in spades and is counting on one overriding consideration—that we really don’t care if he used drugs to win those seven Tour de France titles or not. I suspect that Armstrong is confident enough in that to slip on that yellow jersey.