Friday, January 18th

Why I Forgive Lance Armstrong

It might be premature to post this before the second half of Oprah’s interview airs. But I feel compelled to get this out there to balance the hate and rage spewing from every outlet. Maybe it’s because I’m in Austin, the epicenter of Lance Armstrong judgement, but this feels especially awful. Sure, I laughed at the #Doprah hashtags, but it all too quickly became not funny.

Lance Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey

First, let me just say that I know I’m not siding with popular opinion here. And I know that Lance Armstrong is not warm and fuzzy, or particularly likable. That works against him in every way and I appreciate that no one has tried to soften his image. Our intelligence hasn’t been insulted here, for a change.

There was plenty of buzz before the interview aired, as Oprah is a finely-tuned buzz machine. Now, I often watch OWN for the big interviews on Oprah’s Next Chapter. I watched her question Rihanna about Chris Brown. And ask Kelsey Grammar about cheating on his wife. And jump on Paula Deen’s trampoline with Gayle. So unlike others, I wasn’t scrambling to see if I even had that channel, unfamiliar with the new Oprah. I nervously waited with a combination of curiosity and dread.

Why the dread? I hate public humiliation. And that’s what this is. Lance Armstrong coming clean about his doping means more than the stripping of titles, being banned from the sport to which he devoted his life, and stepping down from LIVESTRONG. He also has to endure a public shaming of epic proportions. Was his crime that heinous? Does cheating at a sport really deserve an outcry like this?

Armstrong is hardly the first athlete to break the law. Isn’t half of the NFL on probation? I know, I know. Armstrong was a role model. A cancer survivor. An activist. A leader. A hero. That is why we are so let down. As far as I can tell, the average American doesn’t follow bike racing. This is a sport that we don’t really care about until we find out SOMEONE IS CHEATING! I don’t know anything about sports but I know that you aren’t supposed to cheat! Outrage! I hate you now!

Most of the athletes who made it to the Tour de France were doping at the time. It was part of the culture, part of how they achieved these great feats of athleticism. But it was only a small part. The sore muscles, the years of conditioning and sheer determination, the sacrifice of any kind of normal life. Lance Armstrong did all that, too. He didn’t lay on the couch eating chips and simply dope his way to the top. He did it all. Everything it took to get there, he did. Including the illegal stuff. And the sport has long had a culture of doping. There are so many measures in place to test these athletes because there’s a rich history of illegal practices.

Should Lance have resisted and forged a new path within a dirty sport? Maybe. But he didn’t and now he’s the poster boy for doping. And lying. And all that is evil. It saddens me that a man with superior athletic capability will not be remembered for that. Or for the millions raised for cancer research. I’m sad for his children and his family and for those who looked up to him. But mostly I’m sad for him, because his desire to win under any circumstances cost him everything and he ended up losing.

We are so quick to turn our heroes into villains, should they fall. But why can’t we simply look at Lance Armstrong as he truly is? A human being, so flawed like the rest of us.

11 Responses

  1. […] post with the most pins is Szechuan House. My most controversial post is Why I Forgive Lance Armstrong. Random old post that I love: Cool Yule, Fool, because I love the photos of my Christmas […]

  2. Yes everyone is human and flawed and we should look at situations like this from all points of view. But we have. And the consensus is that this man is a loser. He harmed everyone he could to benefit himself. It’s not just that he was doping. He was a dope. He treated everyone like shit. You live in Austin so you should have heard stories from friends by now about how horrible he treated everyone, including his fans. Sure, forgive him for being an asshole. But he”s still an asshole. So we should forgive him, but most importantly we should FORGET him. He obviously is a sociopath.

  3. Adviser says:

    I can relate to people on both sides of this issue. Having known people who have done their best to destroy the lives of others in hopes of saving their own falsely positive reputations, I am pretty disgusted by his behavior.

    I think one thing that nobody seems to notice, however, is that we over-idealize our celebrities to begin with. Athletes and movie stars receive far too much credit for things that regular people across the country do without any hope of recognition, out of their own good nature. So, when the inflated hero-status credit we have given them becomes publicly soiled, it’s time for burning at the stake. Perhaps we should worry more about what we’re doing with our own lives and quit obsessing over the lives of others.

    Living in Austin, I definitely sense a feeling of betrayal among people here just due to the fact that Lance is from Austin and therefore receives even more credit from the people here. I can understand it, but like it or not, Austin is just another city, and Lance is just another person who at some point began to put himself above others and continues to do so. Yes, he founded a charity. But think about it…how many hundreds of other people (employees and volunteers) have put in the work to actually make that happen?

    Founding a charity and later showing your true colors is neither reason to immortalize or condemn someone. We don’t have to like him, we don’t have to hate him. So what should we think? How should we feel? Our own experiences shape our reactions, but I know how I deal with these sorts of dilemmas. Forgive him, and forget him. He’ll go on, and so will the world.

  4. Sean Maguire says:

    Probably the worst blog post opinion I’ve ever read – EVER! Lance Armstrong SHIT ON ANYONE AND EVERYONE that crossed his lies for YEARS, and YEARS and YEARS. He destroyed lives and stole glory from those unwilling to cheat, and you boil that down to the supremely pollyanna”

    “…a human being, so flawed like the rest of us”.

    Get a grip. He’s so very far beyond flawed “likethe rest of us” that it isn’t even funny.

  5. Corrin says:

    My issue isn’t with the doping or (shokingly) the lying. Those are all things he did to himself and only he has to deal with. My issue is with how he treated others that got in his way (both with making Livestrong what it is today and trying to keep his own reputation out of the shitter). I think he’s pretty despicable.

  6. Tommy Ates says:

    To defend himself against those telling the truth, Lance Armstrong sued several cooperating witnesses and sullied their reputations in cycling. In the aftermath, it will be even harder of those middle-class (or formerly middle-class) victims of Lance to get their lives and careers back on track…

    What Lance did was vicious, mildly-psychopathic, and so far, he hasn’t shown much remorse for the acts, rather than getting caught. The question you need to ask yourself is, whether a man who acted like Lance has would feel sorry for you?

    It shouldn’t take you long to figure that out.

  7. Yeah, I agree with most of it. This has gotten really ugly, I think beyond what’s actually called for. I’ve been a fan of TdF and Lance for a looooong time, and this just stings. It seems like every victory for as long as I’ve been paying attention has been tainted. Yeah, it’s endemic in the sport at this point, but that doesn’t excuse it… but it also doesn’t mean Lance is a terrible human being. I kinda think of him like Richard Nixon at this point — he did some really terrible stuff that’s getting all the attention (and probably always will), but he has also done some great stuff (Livestrong-related, mostly) that isn’t at all related to or tainted by the doping.

  8. Amanda says:

    True, and I agree with most of what you said. But I think what has turned me off of him is how vicious he has been in attacking those who we now know were speaking the truth about him.

  9. I love the last two sentences of your post Kristin. We are all flawed, sometimes I feel that people want to point a finger at something worse than themselves. None of us are good, not a one. Some worse than others, I worse than most. But in the end we truly are all flawed human beings, we live life, make mistakes, hope for the best and continue on the journey. Appreciate your perspective. ~ Eric

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