Friday, January 18, 2013

Lance Armstrong is an admitted cheater and what it means...

Lance Armstrong is set to come out today and tell the world (finally) that he used performance enhancing drugs on Oprah.

I feel that it's been no great secret that I have been blogging for over a period of years saying that Lance Armstrong is a great athlete, AND a cheater.

Today, I am finally getting the acknowledgement that I was right in my assessment, and yet I have never been more disappointed about being right.

I'm disappointed because I wish there was a world that competitors were all on the same level. Many of us love Lance Armstrong because he was a great human achievement success story. Here was this cancer survivor who was so dominant in his sport that there really was no close second to his legacy. Lance Armstrong gave us a view to a world of possibility and human achievement through dedication and hard work. We believed in him, and connected to his story so much so that we wanted to believe that he was a freak of nature, and not a drug abuser.

In many ways, it is similar to the story of us being naive kids who believe in Santa Claus and when we are told that Santa doesn't exist, it ruins the element of inspiration and possibilities in our lives that we draw from this inspiration.

Well today, this is like finding out Santa doesn't exist at all, all over again. The people we look up to have to tell us yet again, that they lied to us.

One of the most understood belief systems in human beings is that we don't want to look stupid. The fear of looking bad vs. looking good is such an important feeling for us, that when it happens, it creates significant emotions in us. When we believe in someone or something only to be proven wrong, it really makes us feel stupid for believing in that person.

Part of the reason that Lance Armstrong has had a witch hunt against him for so long is that he has for so long adamantly denied the fact that he used drugs in the face of his foundations, companies, sponsors, and teammates. A lot of other figures in sport that have come out and admitted that they took drugs are mostly forgotten. Nobody still witch hunts them after they have come clean. However, the Roger Clemens, Mark McGuire's and now the Lance Armstrong's of the world have always denied these allegations. In doing so, they make it about themselves, rather than understanding that it isn't really about them at all. In fact, it's all about their following because what their public are concerned with is not that they used drugs, but that they are making us think that they must believe that we are stupid for believing them.

When we get the feeling of someone else thinking that "you must think I'm stupid for believing you" it makes us do some really squirrely things. Our humanity will not allow us to extend empathy to this person for this, and then forgiveness is a struggle. The people who admit to it will allow us to see that the person has made a mistake, like we all do, and then we can forgive and move forward.

Not so with people who resist and then get caught.

Enter Lance Armstrong.

Only faced with overwhelming evidence, pressure, financial strain, his foundations under scrutiny, does he come clean because there really is no other option.

Every apology in the world will not help him, because he has violated trust at such a basic human level that it no longer works for anyone who has any listening for him. His reputation and legacy will forever be tarnished and tainted, and all the hard work that he toiled at for decades seems to be a moot point. Sure, he was talented. Sure, he was in the dirtiest doping sport that had everyone else being "dirty" He made countless millions in doing this, and thought that his chemist and system would ensure that he would never get caught. In the end, his arrogance showed in his lack of a "Plan B" exit strategy.

My great hope in all of this isn't that Lance Armstrong suffers for his actions, but rather that we as a society learn from this. We all want records to be broken, yet we don't want to look at the possibility that people cheat to do it.

I remember in the summer of 1998 when I was watching Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa chasing Roger Maris's single season home run record. This was the holy grail of baseball records, and we all got caught up in it. Nobody cared to look at these 2 sluggers and ask why they looked like gorillas compared to what they came into the league looking like. We just wanted to believe...

Now many years later, we can see that there was a really naive view and we ask ourselves how we could be so stupid to not see the signs.

Lance Armstrong is down. I think you will see many others fall around him. I think doping will make a significant catch up, and I think you will see that athletes will have to pass lifetime doping tests in order to keep their records and prize money. Either way, I just want to see a level playing field. Either allow athletes to use whatever they want, or punish them so severely if they fail, that there isn't any middle ground.

And from now on, when you see athletes come along like Michael Johnson, or Usain Bolt, for example, and you see them destroy records that have been around for a significant amount of time, understand that the smoking gun of performance enhancing drugs are probably nearby.

I will go way out on a limb here to say that I feel Usain Bolt will be in the same seat that Lance Armstrong finds himself in today.

Only time will prove me right, yet again.