My thing is, I don’t think any of this is news. It hasn’t been for an awfully long time. Long story short, I’ve never bought into the story of Lance Armstrong. It was just too incredible, and I suppose I’m now vindicated.*
*That doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.
To recap, Lance Armstrong was an up and comer in the cycling world. He had won some events and he’d won some stages of the Tour de France. Then, in 1996, he had to pull out of the Tour after the fifth stage, because of illness. A couple months later, a Texas doctor confirmed he had stage three testicular cancer that had spread all over. Wikipedia tells me specifically it was to his lungs, abdomen, and brain. Those are some pretty vital organs for living, let alone cycling. Also from Wiki, he was given a 40% chance to live, which isn’t good. It isn’t necessarily an exaggeration to say Armstrong was on his deathbed.
Then, in a stunning turn of events, his cancer was declared to be in remission after many surgeries and being filled with chemo. He was declared cancer free in February of 1997. Which is great. Hero or no, I don’t think anybody is rooting for him to die. Anyway, after that great news, Lance Armstrong was back into the top level of cycling the next year, and won the whole tour in 1999. He then preceded to win the next six after that, too.
It’s a wonderful story. It just always felt so far fetched to me. It just didn’t seem possible that somebody could go from the verge of death and going through the ravages of not only cancer, but of cancer treatments as well, could bounce back that quickly and that strongly. I mean, in many cases, the symptoms of chemo are worse than the symptoms of the cancer.* It seemed there had to be more to the story.
*Granted, the end results of chemo are much more promising than cancer. But suffice to say, nobody would call chemotherapy an easy procedure to endure.
Maybe in some ways it would have been easier to believe in another sport. Cycling has had a long history of not being the cleanest sport on a lot of levels. Doping was already rampant before Lance Armstrong ever came onto the scene. It made it easy for the cloud of suspicion to settle over Armstrong, easy to speculate maybe this wasn’t entirely done on a bicycle seat and Texas hills. There were whispers about Armstrong’s personality being a bit of a gloryhound, too, which also didn’t help clear the air. His denials were always a bit over the top. Different argument, but it didn’t look good when he divorced his wife that had stood by him through all this cancer stuff to shack up with Sheryl Crow, either It just never all added up.
And now, of course, we know the truth. Is it a shame? Yes, completely. The legend gave a lot of people a lot of hope, hope that carried them through some situations and illness that maybe they wouldn’t have been able to muster the strength to fight off otherwise. His foundation raised ungodly amounts of money to presumably fund cancer research.* He really did a lot of good, even if he was quite a bit more prickly than his public persona let on.
*I’ve heard some people suggest it did a lot more to fund Lance Armstrong than it did for cancer. I don’t know that I necessarily believe that, I’ve certainly not seen any proof of that. But, in light of some other charities’ monetary distribution and what we know of Armstrong, I wouldn’t necessarily put it past him, either.
So what to make of him now? Public opinion seems to have swung pretty harshly the other way, which I suppose makes sense. You don’t get to pull off that big a deception without some backlash when it all goes sideways. Should we really judge him so harshly with all the good he has done, though? I don’t know. I suppose it depends on how you felt about him before. If you suspected this news all along, I think you meet it with a pretty big shrug and decide he’s done enough good. If you held him as a beacon of hope through your own terrible tribulations, you might judge him a little more harshly as a false messiah of some sort.
We’ll see how badly the fallout gets from this. With all those denials he made, there’s a chance for folks to sue him either for misrepresentation (for his sponsors) or libel/slander (depending on just how nasty he got in those denials). I suppose there might be a chance for some perjury charges, depending on what he told the government a little while back. I don’t know if he was under oath, though.
Lance Armstrong: there will be some explaining to do with the upcoming generations. When VH1 gets to the “I Love The Teens” in a couple decades, it’ll be interesting to see what the reaction is.