One of America’s sports heroes, Lance Armstrong, has given up his fight against charges that he was doping during his incredible stretch of seven straight Tour De France victories. The USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) stripped Armstrong of his titles. This comes along with the news that Armstrong will receive a lifetime ban from competitive cycling, although he really isn’t all that competitive any more. Along with those sanctions, the USADA could demand that he give back his bronze medal from the 2000 Olympics, as well as any titles he won, which could include any and all cash earnings from that time period.
Armstrong hasn’t admitted guilt at all. In fact, quite the opposite. He points to the hundreds of drug tests he passed, not only during that amazing 7 year stretch, but before and after as well. Armstrong simply doesn’t want to enter an arbitration process with the USADA that he sees as unfair. The problem with that view is everyone will take his unwillingness to fight the charges as an admission of guilt. To protect not only his trophies, but his reputation, if innocent, Armstrong should fight the charges tooth and nail. With how vigorously Armstrong has denied these charges for the past decade, it seems odd and a little disheartening to learn that he would just give up the fight because he is just tired of dealing with it. In essence, he is going down without a fight. Is that the lasting message he wishes to leave with his fans. Not only the millions of sports fans who followed his career, but the millions of cancer survivors who couldn’t care less about sports, but saw him as someone who overcame the disease to claim the top spot of his industry. One could argue Armstrong was the single most popular American athlete during his seven year winning streak. Now he will join the likes of Mark McGwire, who also played America’s sports sweetheart and destroyed that by taking PED’s.
Millions of people looked to him as a beam of inspiration after overcoming testicular cancer to go on to be America’s cycling superstar. He has let every single one of those people down in a major way. His message was always you can overcome anything with hard work and dedication. All the while, there was a fine print on that message and its significance is far greater than Armstrong probably would have imagined.
This is all part of a bigger issue. Performing enhancing drugs aren’t just a problem in cycling, as Major League Baseball has had its steroid policy in place for almost 10 years now, although it apparently isn’t working as well as we had thought, with two players being suspended 50 games each just within the past week. It seems as these athletes think they’re invincible. There are rules in place to prevent this sort of thing and there are players out there whose egos are so inflated that they assume that they won’t be caught.
Perhaps the MLB should adopt cycling’s steroid policy, in which one failed test gets you banned for life. Maybe then we will have a level playing field