I’ve watched with interest as the sad truth of Lance Armstrong has come to light over the past few months. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who denied the initial reports, wishing it couldn’t be true. After all, this man is a hero. He survived cancer; after which he came back and dominated a sport in a way that was almost superhuman. I, along with many others I assume, attributed his success to the him facing death and wanting to make the most of the life he had been granted. He wanted to be an inspiration for others faced with the same struggles. He seemed like more than just a dominant athlete in the ranks of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Joe Montana.
But as the International Cycling community stripped him of his 7 Tour de France titles and said “Cycling should forget Lance Armstrong” I strangely found myself not caring. They won’t forget Lance Armstrong anymore than baseball has forgotten Pete Rose after being banned from the sport. As you look through the Tour de France record books and see 7 empty spaces for the winner, you will know who that was. He still won in a sport where everybody cheated. He still raised millions of dollars for cancer research and inspired thousands to believe that cancer is not the end.
I didn’t care about the doping until I read about who Lance Armstrong was behind the scenes. The New York Daily News published an article detailing Armstrong’s bullying and intimidation tactics. I was blown away by the face of a person who’s true colors were coming to light. Behind the yellow wristbands and Nike commercials was a person whose self motivation was willing to trample lives, not build them up. At first like the doping charges I didn’t want to believe it, but once again the accusations were too many to ignore. I was disappointed. Why would a person do that? What credit is there to ill-gotten gains? Why manipulate those who are hurting and struggling to overcome cancer for your own popularity?
Are there any worthy “heroes” anymore? Is there anyone worth looking up to? Just when you think you find someone worthy to emulate they have an affair, get caught cheating, or you find out that their just a horrible person. It seems like a certain amount of greed, selfishness, and manipulation is required to get anywhere.
Or have we as a society just over-glorified success to where we force those whom we throw into the spotlight and dub “hero” to go to impossible extremes to maintain our affection? Therefore, who is worthy of admiration?
I struggle with whether knowing after the fact undoes all the good that Lance Armstrong accomplished and the inspiration he provided millions of people. And while I’m disappointed, deep down I’m really not surprised. In a world where it looks like everyone cheats to get ahead I’ve come to expect it. And maybe I never really considered them heroes, much less role models to begin with.