Should Lance Armstrong's Hero Status Be Revoked?

Hampton,

Lance Armstrong doesn't have to apologize to me. Or to any cynics—read: people with cold hearts and critical thinking skills—like me. Fact is, I've never believed that he rode clean. Not when years of smoldering guns and credible accusations have suggested otherwise. Not when Armstrong's intelligence-insulting, endlessly-repeated line of defense—I have never failed a drug test—is about as convincing as Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist. (Quick review: drug testing only catches the lazy and the stupid. Nobody in the BALCO scandal flunked a test, either). And not when common sense suggests that Armstrong likely was drugged to glow-in-the-dark-Third-Ear levels, given that all of the other world-class cyclists he was beating were doped up, too. Indeed, I'm not convinced that Armstrong should apologize to cycling, any more than the 2005 Carolina Panthers should apologize to professional football. Both sports are irredeemably reliant on the pill and the needle; both sports likely wouldn't be possible, let along survivable, without performance-enhancing drugs.

That said, there is one group of people Armstrong ought to apologize to. A group of people he ought to grovel before, supplicants-of-Zod-style. I'm speaking, of course, of all the people Armstrong and his highly-paid legal help viciously and self-righteously smeared, threatened and harassed to keep his coughallegedcough doping under wraps. Journalists. Teammates. His former personal assistant. His former masseuse. Armstrong didn't just use his power and influence inside and outside cycling to raise money for and awareness of anti-cancer efforts; he used to enforce a nasty code of ass-covering omerta.

Armstrong was a bully. Small and petty and vindictive and ugly. Plain and simple. I don't care about Armstrong's self-justifying refusal to ever give up on anything. I don't give a damn if helped him when bicycle races, or even if it helped save his life. It made him cruel, and it led him to abuse others for the awful crime of telling the truth. Besides, I hate bullies. Especially ones who take advantage of vulnerable people—cancer victims, fighting life or death battles and looking for inspiration—to wrap themselves in bishop's robes.

Speaking of those: Hampton, I completely disagree with you, and with everyone that says this has nothing to do with Armstrong's cancer-fighting work. Armstrong's doping has everything to do with it. Without doping, there is no Lance Armstrong, international celebrity Cancer Jesus who eats the Pyrenees for breakfast and picks his proud, All-American teeth with the sad, jealous bones of bitter little French journalists who probably miss Vichy rule. Without doping, there's just lance armstrong, lower-case, a bike-riding guy with a heartwarming story who finishes somewhere in the anonymous Tour de France pack. And that guy doesn't have Nike commercials, or yellow bracelets, or best-selling books, or Livestrong. You know how I know? Because lots of people beat the odds and survive cancer all the time, including people in my family, and while all of them are heroes, nobody else in America cares. They're not famous. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

So yeah: go ahead and pretend there are two Lance Armstrongs. You're wrong.

Despite all of the above, there's one aspect of this story I do have mixed feelings about. Sports doping. I'm not sure it should be a crime. I think we're all a bit hysterical and hypocritical about it. And I absolutely, positively don't think the federal government should be wasting its time and resources on the matter. Armstrong—or maybe it was his lawyers—always liked to call investigations against him "witch hunts." I think he's probably right. But I'd be a lot more sympathetic if the man in the crosshairs didn't come off like such a witch.

Jake, I feel dizzy. What's your take?

–Patrick

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Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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