For those who have had too much of it in the news already, I apologize. Yes, this is about Lance Armstrong. Now, I must confess to not being a very wise or experienced fan of Armstrong. I do not own his Life Strong bracelets, I have not followed his wins, and until recently I did not even know what his team name was for the Tour de France (Postal Service). There is a lot of information about him circulating the internet. As of late, his name alone has been causing some very ugly feelings to rise up. The major reason for this, of course, is rooted in the revelation that Armstrong has made about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, which were used during all seven of his victory wins in the Tour de France. Besides just using the drugs, Armstrong has been one who has vehemently denied such accusations for quite a long time. What’s worse, he has sued those who have suggested that he has/had been using drugs, and claims millions of dollars through lawsuits. Years later, he has come clean and has admitted that, yes, he lied during every instance in which he was directly asked about his drug use. In response, people are kind of pissed off.
I can understand this. Armstrong has been more than just a sports figure. By winning the Tour de France seven times, he has (to date) held the record of the highest consecutive wins. It seems somewhat unimaginable to think that, from 1999 to 2005, he won each year. And, of course, that is the point: that it was unimaginable. It is also excruciating for others to place so much trust and support in someone who ultimately confesses that such support was a waste of time and energy. It must have been so tiring for his fans to have been constantly battling his critics. Under times of suspicion, every idea seemed to be thrown out: that Lance was just special, that he worked harder than anyone else, that he had discipline levels previously unheard of, that he just wanted it more than other competitors. And while the truth of these statements are arguable, his drug use cannot. In order to enhance his performance, he had more than talent in his blood.
Besides his incredible winning streak, Armstrong was also able to treat and beat his cancer in 1997. For cancer survivors, this could have acted as a great inspiration. Not only did Armstrong suggest that one could live cancer-free after battling the disease, that they could enjoy the functions of daily life that those without cancer are qualified for, but that one could then go on to become a remarkable record holder in their chosen area of sport.
Yet with this confession, much of the power gets depleted from the story. Yes, Armstrong did use his body to ride those races. Yes, he did have training prior to the races. Yes, I am sure that he had discipline. But, as suggested with his third place in the 2009 Tour de France, he might not have been the best all of the time. Not for seven times.
When a person like Armstrong falls, so does their legacy. Perhaps the most upsetting thing that comes from this news is not that Armstrong lied, but that he is only human. He has limitations as well. The miracles that he spoke of were, at least assisted by, drugs. Sometimes people just need someone to look up to, someone to aspire to be one day. If even the seemingly-superman Armstrong has limitations, what does that suggest about the rest of us?
What about you? Why do you think that this story has meant so much for so many people?