I used to just think cheaters suck. But with a better understanding of professional sports I'm of a different mind now. You're going to see a lot of Lance Armstrong related headlines today. I hope you read my post and hear me out.
There are two possible realities: Lance doped, or Lance did not dope. And it doesn't matter.
Lance Armstrong, like so many others, beat cancer with drugs. We beat headaches, colds, viruses, unsavory social situations, Monday mornings, and so many other maladies with chemicals, that not one person in western society can say they haven't benefited from some kind of pharmacological aid.
Lance beat cancer. He shouldn't have. He should have died. And after he passed through the valley of death he came back, trained and was good enough, artificial aids or not, to be counted among the best cyclists on the planet. That's no small accomplishment.
If...Lance Armstrong cheated with chemicals, then he's a liar and a cheat, but no more than any of the other professional cyclists. There is a culture of doping out there. And, like honest politicians, I'm certain you can find a few pure athletes that refuse to allow themselves to be tainted. Until their sponsors insist.
So Lance doped or he didn't. He passed all his tests. He got through more than a few years at the absolute pinnacle of professional racing as a cancer survivor. He accomplished what someone like me could have never accomplished, drugs or not.
It's obvious he USADA is on a witch hunt. To use such nefarious tactics, to go after such an iconic athlete after his career is over...
Listen, if the instances of doping in professional sports were so few and far between it would make sense to go after the scofflaws, but by stripping Lance of his titles at this point only shows some individual hatred of Lance Armstrong. Yeah, he's the brash Texan that shocked the world. That's gonna sting a few tender cheeks, but he is what he is.
And what is he? An inspiration. To cancer patients, to armchair cyclists, to couch potato rejects, to so many who would dream of accomplishing the seemingly impossible.
Ken Chlouber and Merilee Maupin started the Leadville race series to bring the town of Leadville out of the depths of economic ruin. Intentional or not, Lance's presence in 2008 and 2009 gave the race and the town the shot in the arm it needed to keep on.
Getting to hear him speak for three minutes the day before my own Leadville race was one of those too cool moments I'll never forget. And not because I hold him up as some sort of cycling god, but because he has done so much to make American cycling something to shout about again.
Lance is at least partly, if not mostly, responsible for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. What was the count? $85 million in revenue for the state of Colorado last year in the midst of the Great Recession? That may not translate directly for those non-Coloradans out there, but the USAPCC may be only the beginning labors of a rebirth in professional American cycling. Lance is at the center of that exploding interest from Plano, Texas to France to Leadville to Golden, Colorado and into the hearts and minds of every young aspiring cyclist, competitive or not.
The Lance Armstrong Foundation (LIVESTRONG) is an amazing organization, and Lance's influence in that arena is just too incredible to discount. So many people have hope and the strength to go on because of Lance's groundbreaking work.
No, his benevolent works do not excuse cheating. But his benevolent works should not be tarnished or damaged because of some questionable allegations. The witch hunt needs to stop. Bringing Lance down serves no real public good.
Love him or hate him, Lance Armstrong is the face of American cycling.
Here is a link to a Yahoo news story (apologies for not digging deeper, but you get the gist).
And here is the link to Lance's recent statement.