Lance Armstrong: Cheater.

February 11, 2013 12:00 pm

In October 2012 Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and handed a lifelong ban from cycling. Armstrong was, if the not the greatest of all time, without doubt the greatest cyclist of the modern era. He is known to people all over the world whether they have an interest in cycling or not.

lance armstrongHe was a hero of his sport. To put it simply, he was a legend. Not just of his sport, but of all sport.

So the eventual capitulation after years of vicious denials of doping meant that his consequent admission to doping still had a significant impact. Lance Armstrong is a cheat, but he is not the only one. This admission tells us as much about us as people as it does sport or cycling.

Armstrong, like the golfing icon Tiger Woods, has been caught and sentenced in public. Cycling, before the confession of Armstrong and countless other riders, was a sport in which doping was endemic, before improvement in testing techniques were developed from the turn of the century onwards. It is not justification to cheat because others do so, but the pressure or desire to win must be understood.

But why this reaction to Lance Armstrong’s doping? Why this level of shock, indignation and judgement?

The answers lie in Lance Armstrong’s personality and values of society, not to mention our fascination with the tragic or the fall. Armstrong is not a pleasant man. He is a cantankerous and arrogant bully but he was also a hero. The antagonistic aspect of his multitude of denials only heightened the collective righteousness when he was caught.

Was he remorseful? Yes he was. Not for taking drugs, but for being caught taking drugs. It was a rare moment of noticeable honesty in the Oprah interview when he admitted this

Would he have admitted it if he wasn’t caught? No. He would have taken his cheating past to his grave.

Lance Armstrong, Oprah WinfreyIt is through the Oprah interview that his story and his career can best be analysed. The interview itself is a symptom of our fascination, our need to vilify and judge the fallen hero, to point the finger. We, as a society, are drawn to any story which allows us to enhance our own moral standing, to be noble. We take every opportunity to judge others as it makes us feel better about our own imperfect lives.

This attempt to extricate sport from life is the crux of the issue. Cheating is inherent to modern life. Fairness is preached about but rarely implemented. Yet those who cheat in sports, and cheat the paying viewer, must redeem themselves to the public. The sports cheat, whether on or off the field, must become an exemplary human in the eyes of the public. A public of cheaters. But it isn’t called cheating in life. To benefit from unfair advantage in life will rarely get you the same vilification as it will in sports. Sport seems to sit on a level above normal life – to cheat in sport is the ultimate crime.

Lance Armstrong attempted to control his story, as we all do. Personality does not grow in a vacuum. The drive to win, so destructive when overwhelming, grows out of a society of competition. Lance Armstrong is a cheat. He has blackened and contaminated the stance of himself and his sport in the eye of the public. But he is not the only one. He is one contemptible person in a world of many.

Verdict: Lance Armstrong is a cheater!

The moral of the story? Stop cheating. The best place to start is in life.


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