The day I thought would never come: Lance Armstrong is revealed to be a fraud.
That sentence right there will get about half (so roughly, two) of the people reading this to exit their browser. Lance defenders will simply toss up that the 7-time Tour de France winner has never failed a drugged test. Very true. But that’s not what I’m concerned about. What the real question is – and it’s a question his defenders avoid like the plague – is this: do you think Lance Armstrong cheated?
Everything we know about cycling says he did. Every cloud of smoke that puffed up would point to fire. We didn’t need positive test results from Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire. We just know, because we know enough about the sport and the inner-goings of it that we can know without ever really knowing. Imagine your company had a rampant problem with chicks having sex with managers just to get a promotion, then all of a sudden the smoking hot mail clerk becomes CEO. You can’t prove that she sucked a dick or two to get there, but c’mon, let’s be real about the situation.
But the Lance Armstrong story is different because of one single factor: he’s a good person. Hell, a great person. A champion of trying to cure cancer. How could you possibly attack someone with such a noble cause? His defenders like to turn the argument around and say an attack on Lance is an attack on Lance The Nobleman. The truth is that it’s an attack on Lance The Celebrity. And the Celebrity is hurting the Nobleman’s cause.
You have to be blind or naive to believe that Armstrong is innocent of cheating, much like baseball purists in the 1990s. We all know it, now we’re calling him out on it. And in typical celebrity fashion, he’s taking a page from the Rafael Palmeiro playbook and denying a fact that we all know. What this breeds is contempt. Obviously, what Lance has done in the cancer stage is greater and more important than what’s he’s accomplished on a bicycle, but he’s the one choosing to put his athletic career on a higher pedestal. His name and his brand is too important to him, and he’d rather deny the truth than move on and have people focus on all the good he’s doing.
That’s where the problem lies: the lying. The American public doesn’t care enough about cycling to care whether or not Lance Armstrong cheated at it. His triumph in that arena was a moment in time, it won’t be effected by news of cheating. What will is his brand, and his brand created the cancer-curing train that all his lovers adore him for. But this denial, as it has with other athletes, will deflate his ego and drop him out of the public consciousness, which will further damage the Livestrong brand. You can either be a celebrity or a nobleman, and he wants to be both. Maybe his message matters, but until Lance Armstrong starts telling the truth, he won’t. But that’s not how guys like him or Bonds think. They think as long as there isn’t stone cold proof, everyone will be cool. It’s a way to save the celebrity. Makes you wonder exactly which side he cares about more. I just wish he’d realize that it never works out.
(Oh, and by the way, Livestrong.com gives out medical advice written by unresearched sources who just post whatever they want. But that’s a discussion for another day.)