Lance Armstrong, seven time Tour de France champion, cancer survivor, inspiration to us all. The name used to be synonymous with words like “strength”, “courage” and “determination”. However when allegations of steroid use by Armstrong surfaced and lead to a federal investigation in early 2012, what were formerly synonyms became antonyms, replaced by words such as “cheater” and “liar”. When Armstrong appeared in an interview with Oprah Winfrey to admit publicly to doping, the public took to social media to express their disdain with Armstrong as not only a bicyclist, but as a person.
Carson Daly expressed via Twitter that he was “embarrassed [he] was a fan for so long.”, writer Monte Burke stated “my kids will only know him as a liar.” Comedian Seth Meyers was able to pull some good out of the situation, joking that Armstrong is “still the Lance Armstrong of ****heads”. However possibly most profoundly, former CNN anchor Lizzie O’Leary wondered aloud “When do we talk about the cancer patients who were sold a lie?” Oddly enough, all failed to mention that Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation helped to raise over 500 million dollars towards cancer research.
Yes, Armstrong cheated and yes he lied. But Lance Armstrong also did something that Daly, Meyers and O’Leary, among others could only dream of doing. A man who cheated at some bicycle races while subsequently raising half a billion dollars to go towards cancer research is, as far as most are concerned, a disgusting and despicable human being.
In an era of rampart steroid use, doping in professional bicycling is nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever. From 1998 until 2006, the highest finisher in the Tour de France not implicated in a doping scandal was Carlos Sastre, who finished fourth. That is, in the nine Tour de Frances between those years, not one clean racer finished first, not one second, and not one even in third place. In 2005, if the race officials were to award the win to the fastest finisher who hasn’t been linked to doping, they would be forced to look outside the top 20 to Jan Ullrich, who finished 24th. Lance Armstrong didn’t beat a bunch of squeaky clean racers; Armstrong beat a bunch of roiding cyclists.
Lies and cheating should not tarnish the name of the man who founded what was originally called the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Armstrong is a cancer survivor himself, who rode a bicycle on steroids faster than anyone else rode a bicycle on steroids, and used the motivation of those behind him to win seven Tour de France titles and raise a half billion dollars. The money isn’t “dirty”, ask any cancer patient, if they would reject a half billion dollars that was used to help beat the disease that claims about 600,000 lives in America alone each year.
Yes, Mrs. O’Leary, cancer patients worldwide were indeed lied to by Armstrong in exchange for 500 million dollars intended to help their cause. Take away his seven titles, I have absolutely nothing wrong with that. Strip him of any wins he recorded in the Tour de France, but do not deprive him of the good that he did. Armstrong did more with his fame than any other athlete of our time, maybe more than any athlete ever.
When Monte Burke tells his kids the story of Lance Armstrong, let’s hope he finds it bearable to mention the fact that the “liar” helped over 2.5 million people get free patient navigation services who otherwise may not have been able to afford it. Lance Armstrong saved lives. Lance Armstrong inspired millions, giving them hope and raising awareness of cancer, making the Livestrong brand and foundation a household name. But Lance Armstrong lied and Lance Armstrong unfairly won some bike races, so let’s all forget about him, shall we?