It is a story we are all too familiar with: the complete and utter collapse of one of our heroes. It seems as if we have grown accustom to our sports legends falling from grace, whether it be cheating, lying or complete cover-ups. From Michael Vick’s dog abuse, to Joe Paterno and the Penn State scandal, to Tiger Woods and his numerous affairs, now we have Lance Armstrong. What was once one of the greatest life and sport triumphs in American history, and the creator of one of the most influential brands in our culture with Livestrong, is found to have been an image built upon a decade of lies and cheating.
In an extensive interview with Oprah Winfrey this past weekend Armstrong has admitted to habitually using testosterone, steroids and performance enhancing drugs during his run of winning seven Tour de Frances, the pinnacle achievement in cycling.
After an investigation by the American Anti-doping Agency, Lance Armstrong was stripped of every single one of his Tour de France titles last year and was then removed as president of the company he once founded and globalized in Livestrong. Through all of it, Armstrong continued to adamantly deny that he ever cheated. In the process he attacked his former teammates who spoke out and told the truth; he went under oath and told the American government he did not cheat; he did constant interviews trying to state his case that he was clean. Now we see that all of it was a lie and realize if there was one thing Armstrong was better at then cycling, it was lying.
Not that cheating is anything new in sports, as we have seen in baseball, but it will not be the cheating that will forever taint Armstrong’s reputation. It was the constant lying that went along with it.
The worst part was he created one of the most influential social movements of the past decade. In middle school I remember everyone wore or owned a yellow Livestrong brand. It stood for never giving up and making the most out of everyday. Lance Armstrong was an American Icon in every sense of the word. Looking back it is sickening to know that it was built on a lie. All the winning, all the interviews, all the commercials, all of it centered around a cheater and a liar.
I think the worst part of it all is that I’m not even surprised anymore when I see an American sports icon cheat. It is almost as if I am numb to the feeling. Even worse is that it affects my belief of everyone else. Every time I see these gifted athletes accomplish amazing things, I have to ask myself: Is what I’m really seeing purely their God-gifted talent or was this built upon shots and pills? And it is truly a shame for the majority of athletes that go out there and play the game the fair way.
The one thing I hope for in all of this is that Lance Armstrong serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when you cheat and lie. I hope the next generation of athletes learns that the truth always comes out. I hope the RG3s, the Kevin Durant’s, Bryce Harpers and Rory Mcllroys of the world carry the torch of authenticity and fair game that we can all look up to.
I want my sports heroes to stand for hard work and honesty. Sports and its superstars are such a positive outlet from the problems we face everyday, and if they continue to disappoint us with their cheating and cover-ups it could permanently tarnish the purity of sports for everyone.