Two years after Lance Armstrong finally admitted to having systematically and for many years cheated by doping, he finds his way back into the news, giving an interview to the BBC.
Not that, when he finally did confess to his cheating, he did so to any of the authorities which were investigating such allegations. Not when he sued the Sunday Times for libel and accepted settlement out of court. Not when he accused the French sports newspaper l’Équipe of “tabloid journalism” over allegations that it made of his doping. No, craving spectacle, he chose the Oprah Winfrey show.
Another thing that he has craved, at least since he entered competitive sport in his teens, is competition and success. Deprived of the ability even to run in the Boston Marathon, he is clearly missing that badly. But he still does not understand, saying “If you take me back to 1995, when it was completely and totally pervasive, I’d probably do it again.” In relation to what he feels he achieved for his sponsors, he said “By the way, I’m proud of that relationship, I’m proud of what we did.”
Armstrong, admittedly with many others, came close to destroying the sport of professional cycling. Some cyclists died as a result, from the tragic side-effects of the drugs that they used. He – and the others who doped – have set role models which now lead lesser sportspeople to dope. Although pro cycling is cleaning up its act, recent positive test results from one team (Astana) suggest that it still has a way to go.
But more than that, Armstrong cheated all of us who thought that we were watching the best, most successful competitor in the Tour de France. I still remember some of his amazing accomplishments: the fall when caught on a musette bag and his incredible recovery (2003, stage 15, ascent to Luz Ardiden), battles with Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich, and more. I have them all on DVD sets, every one of his Tours. But I can no longer bring myself to watch one cheat beating the other cheats. For he cheated on all of us, and would clearly do so if he had his time again.
Should we ever do anything to encourage such a role model?