Lance Armstrong is thinking about fessing up. On Friday, January 4, 2012, the New York Times reported that the disgraced cyclist is considering a tactical admission to the illegal doping that got him kicked out of cycling and stripped of his titles just a few months back. In October, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) issued a statement concluding its investigation had unearthed overwhelming evidence to estabish “the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong and confirm the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS Team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding.” When confronted with this damning mountain of evidence, the one-nut wonder decided it was too steep a climb and walked away from cycling.
Now the blood-doping vampire wants to come back from the dead career that he himself killed. After forfeiting all seven of his Tour de France titles, while the International Olympic Committee (IOC) considers taking back his Bronze medal from the Sydney Olympics, Lance wants to come clean, according to inside sources. Why? Not because he feels guilty. He’s lost his funding, his lucrative sponsorships from firms like Anhueser-Busch, and even his position in the Livestrong Foundation, the nonprofit he formed for cancer survivors. Like other con artists of the sporting world who preceded him in infamy—Marion Jones and Barry Bonds to name but a few—he has lost his superstar status, the events, the adulation, the oodles of dough. He is fiending for a comeback and will do anything for a fix—even that which comes the least naturally to him: telling the truth.
This is an individual who built his own mythos on a story of survival and transcending unbeatable odds: the gritty Austinite who overcame life-threatening testicular cancer and went on to lead the U.S. Postal Team to seven consecutive Tour de France victories. Even that number is symbolic of luck and magic, fitting neatly into an unbelievable tale of triumph and glory. While it lasted, Armstrong was an inspiration to athletes and cancer patients the world over, and he bathed in superstar status and a steady stream of adulation and money. For years, he was able to dupe the public into believing in his virtue and tenacity. Little did we all know back then that at the center of the Armstrong story was a central plot of cheating, lying, scofflaw tactics and intimidation of his fellow team members. The real Lance Armstrong was a megalomaniac who would stop at nothing to achieve world-class prestige, power and prosperity. He is a man willing to exploit the cancer community to divert attention away from his doping, who was so violently ego-driven he was willing to deceive the entire world as long as it could earn him that world’s lavish praise.
Even during his meteoric rise, however, the cracks began to show in his disguise. After his fourth Tour victory, Lance divorced his wife Kristin, the woman who had married him in the midst of his battle with cancer and who stood by him through the many challenges of his recovery and athletic resurrection. Almost immediately after their breakup, Armstrong started dating Sheryl Crow and palling around on man-dates in Miami’s South Beach night club district with his pal Matthew McCounaughey. These developments infused tacky discord into the Lance Armstrong theme song of victory, virtue and values. And as it happened, Armstrong’s post-divorce cavorting showed something more like the real Lance: a shallow, approval-seeking playboy. The scenes from this tableau presaged the downfall he tried so hard to downplay last October, when it finally hit the fan for Lance and all the team-mates he had coerced into rigging the races.
Why did Lance walk away from USADA’s report without a fight? Not because he was noble or proud. He had simply seen what Marion Jones and others went through with the Department of Justice when they tried to contest USADA. The lesson from Jones and others’ falls from grace is this: if you try to stand up to USADA and duck a doping charge, you’ll find yourself in a trifecta of interrogations with the FBI, the Department of Justice, and congressional committees, and they won’t stop asking questions until they catch you in a lie—any lie—and indict you for obstruction of justice. Maybe it’s overreaching, maybe the government doesn’t have any place mucking around in athletic ethics rules governed largely by a global network of NGOs. But when you consider the sheer depravity, the despicable level of deception wrought by Svengalis such as Armstrong and Jones, it’s hard not to think of USADA and the Feds as the good guys, no matter their tactics.
Lance was too smart to walk into that arena. Cleverly, he folded his tents and basically pled “no contest” to USADA’s allegations, let go of his titles, looking to live to fight another day. And apparently that day is dawning in Lance’s glory-addicted mind. Now he wants to turn the situation into yet another epic comeback, maybe to prove to himself as well as the world that he’s still got it, that Midas touch, the ability to spin everything back to his favor. According to the Times’ sources, Armstrong actually believes that if he tells the truth—only after lying his way to victory not once, not twice, but seven times counting the Tour de France alone—competitive cycling will let him back in the race.
In law, this move is known as “confession and avoidance.” Basically, it means to admit to the general allegations being charged, but negate their effect through the development of evidence which tends to get one off the hook. This appears to be what Lance is trying to do. He wants to confess to doping, go back to racing, and prove that he can win again without artificial enhancements. If he can prove he’s still a winner without doping, he can establish a “no harm, no foul” type of scenario by which to re-validate his prior, fraudulent wins in the court of public opinion. Clever? –Yes. Wise? –Not by a long shot. Just by telegraphing his next move, Lance shows himself to be the kind of psychopath who should be shut out of competition forever. The Times piece reeks of a publicity stunt. The information does not come from Lance himself, but from “sources close to him.” It all looks very staged, like a set-up. You can see the wheels turning in Armstrong’s devious mind. He wants to have his cake and eat it too, even after admitting he stole the cake. He still believes he can come out the winner through cunning and spin.
The Olympic Movement, the official organization of the Olympics, promotes three core values on its website: Excellence, Respect and Friendship. By riding to victory on wheels of deception and by intimidating his fellow team-mates into a conspiracy against both the sport and American taxpayers, Lance Armstrong defecated on all three values. He should never be allowed to compete in any athletic events again. He has done so much to damage the moral virtues of athleticism that he deserves the harshest punishment.
Fully accepting the most severe penalty, Armstrong should publicly confess, apologize to the entire world, to all those he has directly and indirectly harmed, beg for forgiveness, and spend the rest of his life in quiet anonymity trying to become a worthwhile human being. He should forever eschew fame, fortune and competition, and dedicate himself to truly serving others in menial—and meaningful—ways.
Now that would be a comeback story well worth the read.