The Trouble with Heroes

During the summer Lance Armstrong gave up his seven titles from winning the Tour de France in order to have his crimes kept from the public. It didn’t matter. We all know now.  Lance Armstrong was doping.

The final stage of the Tour de France

Eleven of his team mates over the years have come forward to testify that Lance not only engaged in the doping but his doctors, managers, his former wife, and many others were cooperating.

Worst of all, he was the leader. He was telling his teammates that if they didn’t go along and dope as well, that they weren’t on the team.

The doping was so sophisticated that it fooled over 150 labs that tested his blood over the years. For fans like me, the clear lab tests were enough to erase all the “false” accusations that came from sore losers.  Lance, a cancer survivor like myself, was my hero. Just look what he overcame to become a seven-time winner.

Even this summer, when the titles were stripped, I was not too disappointed. Instead, I rationalized, that ALL or most riders on ALL teams were doping therefore we were at least comparing apples to apples. Lance was the best of the dopers.  Looking back, I’m wondering what I was thinking. There is never any excuse to do this to your body, to your competitors, and to the sport.

It was not all teams that were engaged in this fraud. That was blow number one. It was Lance that was leading the team into cheating. That was blow two. And it is Lance that is still denying, through his lawyers, that doping is cheating and saying these charges amount to a “witch hunt.”

Three strikes and you are out in my book.

When you have many witnesses who came forth and gave explicit details about how and where the blood was drawn and when the boosted blood was reinfused, it is impossible not to believe that doping happened. When doctors were named and financial reports examined, there is no denying the truth. Even the team masseuse has come forward. There are hundreds of pages in the report that state the obvious. Lance is guilty.

Even letting his titles be stripped is his own affirmation of guilt.  Why let that happened if noting was wrong? So why is he still fighting?

These crimes are hurtful to those of us who supported him through hours of watching the Tour, through buying his Live Strong Bracelets, through seeing his races in person, and through the repeated media blasts proclaiming suspicions of drug use. It is damaging to the sport that will now suspect all winners of achieving their victories illegally.

But these things are also true: the sport is bigger than Lance Armstrong and his disgrace will make the sport stronger. Already there are better tests, more vigilance, and more cyclists and supporters who want the sport to be untainted. I am one of them.

And all during those years of racing, Lance Armstrong’s incredible story brought many people into biking. Those people will continue to get out there and either compete or just enjoy a recreational ride on the Towpath.

They will just be doing it with one less hero.