Why I am angry with Lance Armstrong

painterlad's picture
January 15, 2013 at 5:37a
37 Comments

In the Pixar movie The Incredibles, a beaten down Bob Parr (aka, Mr. Incredible) comes home and accidently damages his car. In a fit of anger he lifts the entire car above his head as if to throw the vehicle across town. When he looks down he sees a little boy on his tricycle watching the entire event.
The boy’s eyes open wide as the giant bubble he was blowing pops and explodes gooey pink gum all over his face. Embarrassed by his outburst and afraid his old super identity would be exposed, Mr. Incredible slowly lowers the car to the ground and goes inside, leaving the boy to draw his own conclusions.
The next day Mr. Incredible returns home from work, only this time he had been fired. It seems that Parr was fed up with being ordinary, being forced to fit in with everyday society when he and his family are gifted with great powers. In a fit of anger, he tossed his boss through several cubicle walls when his greedy boss stopped him from helping a man that was getting mugged.
As Parr pulls into the driveway and exits his car, he looks over and sees the same little boy in his driveway.
“Well, what do you want,” he bellows at the kid.
Rather sheepishly, the boy looks up at Mr. Incredible and says “I don’t know; something amazing, I guess.”
You see, the boy had been exposed to the amazing, the spectacular, and he wanted more. Life is dull when all we have to witness is the mundane, the ordinary. When we go through life and all we experience is profoundly boring then we have no appreciation for what is truly great.
And that is why I am angry with Lance Armstrong.
I know little about the Tour de France other than it is a really hard bike race. It is physically demanding and requires as much mental toughness as it does strong legs. I also know that it has been won by Europeans 99% of the time and is therefore most likely some kind of hippie socialist agenda trying to destroy America and our world famous Huffy bikes and banana seats.
So along comes an American (and a Texan to boot!) that does the impossible. He not only wins seven consecutive Tours, which shatters the record, he does so in incredible fashion. His climbs through the Alps were the stuff of legends. He would blow by the strongest climbers the world had to offer and as an act of pure sports ego, he would throw them a glance backwards as if to say “how do you like me now, son?”
He wasn’t just great at what he did, he was amazing. He was the neighbor guy that could dent his car by squeezing too hard and then effortlessly lift the car above his head. He was the basketball player that could jump from the foul line and slam the ball. He was the shortstop that reacted faster than a speeding bullet and knocked down a screaming liner, only to jump up and throw out a really fast runner at first base. He was the quarterback that sensed the pocket was closing in on him and, in an amazing display of training and ability, saw the open receiver downfield and threw a perfect touchdown pass a split second before the linebacker smashed him to the ground.
But Lance Armstrong was also a dirty cheater. It was always rumored he doped simply because most of the professional riders dope. His competitors said he doped, his teammates said he doped and eventually even his friends said he doped. Everyone said what was clearly obvious and now Armstrong has admitted to Oprah Winfrey that, yes, he used “performance enhancers.”
Again, I am kicked in the sports crotch.
I can handle cheating. I recall sitting next to the banker during one of the many nights our family would play Monopoly and when I was in desperate need of cash, I would quietly slip a 500 or two from the till. I used my friend’s project and presented it as my own in school. My team, the Buckeyes, didn’t get to play for the national title this year because the former coach cheated. Sometimes at work I take longer breaks than I should.
What I can’t handle is living in a world where the amazing is impossible without cheating. I can’t handle something that is “too good to be true” because it is. I can’t handle a world where we are all equally average.
I need that sprinter to be just that fast while using nothing more than great training and God given natural ability. I need scientists that are so damn smart they think up stuff that no human should be able to conceptualize. I need artists and musicians and writers that can create the sublime, the life changing.
I am angry with Lance Armstrong because he allowed me to believe that a person could be so mentally tough they could defeat cancer and dominate at professional cycling. I am angry because his form of amazing came not just with training and talent but with regular injections of chemicals. I am angry because he reminds me that my life is so lacking in the amazing and that most of what I have done in my 47 years of existence has been truly average.
Armstrong was/is an image of support and inspiration to millions of cancer patients and their families around the world. I doubt that cheating in a fancy bike race around the French countryside is going to change all of that. But what he accomplished on a skinny rock- hard bicycle seat will forever be gone.
I still hold out hope for the amazing, but Superman isn’t likely to zoom over the horizon anytime soon.
 

Comments

hodge's picture

The problem isn't that we're all equally average, it's that the above-average are all so similarly trained that they look for any method to hold an edge.  God-given talent isn't enough anymore (unless you're Usain Bolt, who can shatter the world record in the 100 meter with terrible starts and coasting finishes), it has to be enhanced. 
The saddest part of Lance's story is that his sins will forever overshadow the good that he's done for cancer advocacy. Maybe his tale will prove cautionary enough to dissuade future generations, but I'm doubting it. Winning is more valuable than ever; endorsements, prizes, and publicity all revolve around the top of that podium, making such ends justify their means. 

AndyVance's picture

Well said, as always. The Lance Armstrong situation juxtaposed against our Buckeyes' pending trip to Happy Valley for the "Ineligi-bowl" prompted me to write one of my first blog posts here. It seems relevant again in the context of your insightful comments.

rdubs's picture

You are right on most counts except that I wouldn't count your chickens on Usain.  If there is no one has close to him who hasn't been busted, it is highly unlikely that he is clean.... just like Lance.

cajunbuckeye's picture

I was a Lance Armstrong fan, even though I never wore a yellow bracelet. I actually followed the Tour on TV and in the newspapers when he was racing. I actually held out hope that he was really telling the truth about "doping". Were there's smoke, there's fire. Like a sacrafice burnt on a pagan alter, another sports legend turns into ash.

An angry fan...rooting for an angry team...led by angry coaches

nardddd's picture

He still did something incredible.  As you mentioned, everyone was doping.  Meaning there was never a competitive advantage.  He beat people who also doped seven times in a row.  He cheated, but so did everyone else.  If no one had cheated, he probably would have seven in a row regardless.
 
Not saying doping was ok, just that it was a time where everyone was doing it, meaning he still had an amazing feat.

STRAWMAN's picture

Ehhhh this is a bit misleading. 
1) Not every rider on the tour was doping. An alarming percentage, sure, but not ever rider. 
2) Blood boosters don't affect every human being the same way. Let's say you and I were both distance runners with around the same marathon time. We both take the same cocktail of drugs and do the same training. One of us could have a marked advantage based on how our body would react to the drugs. 
3) Armstrong not only had the money to run the most sophisticated doping system on the tour. He did run the most sophisticated doping system on the tour. He cheated better than anyone else. He had better doctors and committed to the program 100%. And he had the best team in the tour behind him (even though cycling is an individual sport, your team is a big reason why you see success). 
I'm just sick of seeing Armstrong being defended at all. The guy carried on with this lie for years after it was obvious to anyone that was paying good attention to the sport that he doped. His confession right now? Yeah, it would be like if Barry Bonds admitted to using PEDs about 3-4 years from now. That's how late this was coming. 

1MechEng's picture

Regarding comment #1 ... The reason the Tour De France has left the titles vacant after they stripped Armstrong is because 20 of the 21 podium finishers in those 7 years have been linked to PED's. It's more than an alarming percentage. It's nearly the whole group of the top finishers from that era!

cbusbuckeye's picture

I followed cycling closely while Armstrong was competing, and while I am disappointed that he doped, it does not bother me too much. Everyone that finished behind him on the podiums was implicated long ago, he still earned his titles. What pisses me off is his arrogance and the ends to which he went to make his story believed. He ruined the lives of many innocent people who couldn't stand to propagate the lie, it is truly shameful. 

IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

Yeah, I guess the aspect of his cancer battle and recovery led me to believe there was something super-human awesome about him, but it had nothing to do with his athleticism. It was his will and his heart. Turns out even that was BS. I seriously doubt he would've won the Tour de France 7 times without doping, especially those first few times he won in the years so close to his actual recovery from chemo. You don't bounce back from that without some kind of help. His charity work through Livestrong has been a highly regarded charity and maybe he was counting on that to get the benefit of the doubt from those who didn't believe he really did what he did. I think that deception is what makes him easily the worst doper/cheater ever. Worse than Bonds. Worse than Clemens. Worse than even Canseco or McGwire. He led the sick, the hopeless and the terminally ill to believe in him. Children, too. That's about as low as you can go in that regard I think.
Sad thing is, one of these days someone who plays 100% by the rules is going to come along and destroy the records in some sport and people aren't going to believe it's true. There will be too much cynicism. These guys are destroying heroes.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

Denny's picture

I've had a lot of conflicting opinions on this. Reading this made me think more about it, because baseball is a fairly apt comparison, really. And I still don't know what I think, other than things are complicated.
I fundraised for the LAF and ran the 2009 NYC Marathon with Team Livestrong. I think he's leveraged his success in cycling well and done great things for cancer patient and survivor advocacy. I think he lied for a long time about doping, and overall I have no idea what to think, other than we probably ought to stop putting athletes on a pedestal. They're just going to let us down.

Taquitos.

Maestro's picture

Agree about the conflicted opinions.  He inspired me without a doubt.  To watch him climb Alpe d'Huez in his prime was incredible.  To watch him dominate was incredible.  I wanted to believe him for a lot of reasons.

vacuuming sucks

buckeyedude's picture

The media loves to build people up, just so they can tear them down. Look at how they built up Manti Te'o. They are ruthless.

 

 

phxbuck's picture

Get over it, the guy raised millions for cancer research which is more important than taking PED's and riding his bike in France. 

Riggins's picture

This.

This is a point I'm always trying to make.  Did the ends justify the means?  Yes, a thousand times yes.  If he helped spur millions of dollars in donations that moved us an inch closer to eradicating  this disease that takes far too many of our loved ones far too soon, then I'm glad he did it. 
To the OP, I'm sorry that your boyish naivete was shattered when you found out that an over-the-hill, cancer survivor who dominated the dirtiest sport in the world for seven years was dirty himself, but to anyone who was paying attention, it's not a shock in the least.

rdubs's picture

I sort of agree except that he has ruthlessly tried to destroy the lives of people who have accused him of cheating.  And also he has raised next to nothing for cancer research because Livestrong doesn't give money to cancer research they are all about awareness and support.

cbusbuckeye's picture

That's actually not true, the Livestrong Foundation has not funded cancer research for years, instead focusing on providing services to cancer patients and their families. 

Killer nuts's picture

I agree though we may be in the minority. I've never seen so much good come from cheating and clearly the support and inspiration he provided for thousands of people battling cancer trumps whatever happened in a bike race

rdubs's picture

However he also bullied, intimidated, and sued innocent people to "protect his name." I agree that the bike races are secondary.  I enjoyed watching them and nearly everyone he beat was also doping.  But I cannot overlook the lies and deception that he engaged in while persecuting others who tried to stand up to him.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

If everyone is cheating, is it really cheating?

Class of 2010.

tennbuckeye19's picture

You raise an interesting point. I would say, yes and no, but it all depends on if you get caught. Most OSU fans contend that everyone cheats, though maybe not in the same ways, in major college football. The difference is who gets investigated and caught and who does not. We can all name programs or conferences (SEC, I'm looking straight at you) that we have good reson to believe cheat, but either they haven't gotten caught, haven't been investigated, or they haven't had enough info to proceed with. 
It seems that by most accounts, doping is rampant in cycling, so I wonder how much of an advantage Armstrong had over others if everyone was doing it. I don't know the answer. But I would say in other sports, it does give you a competitive advantage, like Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa being able to smash baseballs with the greatest of ease or a pitcher like Clemens being able to recover faster from a start. 

bleedscarletpissmaize's picture

Only if you get caught. Otherwise no.

btalbert25's picture

When a story sounds too good to be true it really is.  When I heard about this guy who was being eaten alive by cancer, surviving, coming back and winning the tour I thought wow what a story.  About the 3rd win in a row I started to believe something was not right.  By the 7th win, I knew it was a total sham.  To say he still did something amazing because everyone was doping lets him off the hook.  He had a team full of dopers who helped him get edges in certain stages too.  If one was leading they would let him pass because it was a "team award" although the team didn't get credit, Lance did.
The worst part about it all is he was so beloved by the country yet he was such an asshole to people who were having real moral issues with the fraud they were comitting.  Anytime anyone had a change of heart or mentioned they may come clean about it, Lance would go ballistic.  He would threaten and intimidate people.  He was playing a character role for the public and then there was the real Lance.  That to me is the worst part of it all.  I could still pull for a guy who cheated if he was sincerely a nice guy.  There are plenty of baseball players that I still like who cheated, and it makes respect guys like Ken Griffey Jr and Pedro Martinez who dominated the sport cleanly that much more.  I still like Bagwell or McGwire though, they seem to be really good dudes on top of being players who were good and had careers enhanced by steroids.
That to me, is the real reason to be mad about Lance Armstrong.  It's not that he cheated, I think most people realized that long ago.  Hell when he was still racing there were rumors out there.  The reason, to me at least, to be mad about him is that his whole career was an act.  His performance in cycling was enhanced by drugs and he was an actor playing a role in the public.  There was nothing genuine about the man, and that's what is disappointing to me.

btalbert25's picture

I do really respect Livestrong though.  It's helped a lot of people get through and face the fight of their lives.  As I've grown older I realize that sometimes with people you have to deal with the bad in order to get some help for a lot of people.  I've done a lot of work with foundations and non profits and have found that there are some really  nice organizations out there who help a lot of people, but the people who found and run the organizations are scumbags.  It's a small price to pay to deal with that though, if a lot of people's lives are going to be changed for the good.  I don't know that I'd classify Lance as a scumbag, but I don't think I'd give him the saintly status that he was given by the media either.  Despite what kind of man he is, the organization is great.

cbusbuckeye's picture

What makes him a scumbag are his actions in trying to cover up his doping. He ruined the live of several innocent people who tried to come forward publicly. 

btalbert25's picture

Oh I definitely think that makes him a douchebag.  I mentioned that in my long post above.  He threatened and intimidated a lot of people.  Like I said he played a role for the cameras and was different in real life.  He was certainly a fraud on all counts.

Brutus Greyshield's picture

If we're going to accept the everyone-else-was-cheating-too argument, shouldn't we start giving the awards and credit to the guys who concocted the superior PED cocktails?

Let's put Victor Conte and BALCO in the HOF!

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

It's annoying only because he lied for years. Outside of that, I honestly don't care.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Earle's picture

First of all, let me say that this was a very well-written and thought-provoking post, Painterlad.
I'm not angry at Lance Armstrong, but I'm saddened.  Saddened that someone who seemed to be almost super-human turned out to be all too human, after all.  I wanted to believe that he just trained harder than everyone else, wanted it more than everyone else, or just plain had a God-given ability that no one else did.  Maybe he did.  But we'll never know if he could have been just a little less dominant as a clean athlete competing against other clean athletes (or even against other cheaters).  Instead, one of the great sports stories of our generation goes down as just another example of someone who cheated and got caught.  And the world is a sadder place because of it.

Italics are for emphasis.

Doc's picture

Lance got to big for his britches.  When he got mega famous he dumped his wife and kids that stood by him during his cancer and recovery for fame and fortune and Sheryl Crowe.  I lost all respect for the guy then.  Now it just seems like piling on.  My Mom always told me growing up cheaters will get there's in the end.  I guess he did.
At least Jordan still is "clean" from the doping tsunami.

"Say my name."

BostonBuck's picture

I've moved on. When PGA golfers start to cheat (foot wedges etc) I'm calling it quits.

AndyVance's picture

Ouch - that is definitely, pardon the unfortunate pun, below the belt.

Doc's picture

...but still funny.

"Say my name."

Jack Fu's picture

I am not angry at him. I just don't like him, because he is a self-righteous, cheating, bullying, lying, skeevy asshole.
As for the sentiment, which I saw a couple of times farther up the thread, that since "everyone was cheating" Armstrong's accomplishments are just as valid, since the widespread cheating allegedly meant there was no "competitive advantage," this is what Daniel Coyle, author of The Secret Race, had to say about the subject on Slate's Hang up and Listen podcast:

When you have widespread cheating, it's the opposite of a level playing field. It's precisely the opposite because it puts emphasis and leverage on factors like access, on factors like information, on factors like who has the best doctor, who has the most money, who has a private jet, who has the most risk tolerance, and who has the most political connections. It becomes this three-dimensional chess game of all these factors. And it's poignant in reading the testimony [of fellow cyclists and others in the cycling world] how Lance Armstrong was so different in all of those factors. That he did have the resources; that he did hire the doctor on an exclusive basis so that no one else could hire Dr. Michele Ferrari, Lance's closest advisor and by all accounts the top dope doctor in the world; the ways in which he used his private jet; the ways in which he used his political connections to avoid problems with testing. Above all, his risk tolerance, his ability to do these incredibly scary, difficult things in front of the whole world at the Tour de France and get away with it.

I don't think it's quite as simple as "eh, they were all cheating, so there was really no advantage for him."

Lincoln's picture

I am mad at Lance Armstrong becuase I actually kind of cared about the Tour De France for a couple of years :/.

Kurt's picture

I ride my bike almost everyday whether commuting or long-distance riding (though not much in January and February).  Back in 2004/5 I started to get into riding longer distances (more than just around campus and Cbus) and it was in significant part influenced by Lance Armstrong.  I came to the realization a few year's ago that he doped and eventually it would be found out.  Now that some time has passed it's incredible for me to think back to that time in my life when Lance was such a revered figure.
Aside I felt through the first interview that his answers could likely align psychologically with the likes of Bernie Madoff, Tiger Woods or even Joe Paterno for example.  He was just driven to build his own empire and legacy, then defend it tooth and nail.  He even said it wasn't even about the winning, it was about the process of the conquest.  I think this is what likens him to the characters mentioned above.  It was clear to sense that he's an absolutely ruthless competitor, which is what we all tend to love so greatly.  But it can also be the thread that spins it all out of control.  He's probably no more or less crazy than someone like Michael Jordan or General Patton...Lance just got out of control.