The Balloon That Rise and Then Vanish
Lately, there has been an overwhelming amount of press about the discredited Lance Armstrong. Once considered the best of the best in professional cycling, he is now looked upon as a cheater and a liar for taking performance enhancing drugs to win his races. Like the Greek god Icarus, who ignored warnings about flying too close to the sun, he fell from grace. In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, he admitted to “doping” in order to excel and win his seven Tour De France titles. Many are put off by Lance’s attitude of distance from his behavior. While taking responsibility for his actions, he clearly implies that many people in his sport succumb to the pressure to win, and that most have used illegal means to achieve victory.
One factor that sets Lance apart from the rest of his teammates is the fact that he won a battle against testicular cancer. In Armstrong’s view, it was during this experience that he gained his “win at all costs” attitude, which he believed worked for him in regards to his health, but not in the world of professional cycling. This piece is particularly curious to me, as I might have thought that having cancer would have changed his perspective, perhaps helped him to focus on the fragility of life. But, of course, one can never say how such a devastating disease will affect any given individual.
But, like any good Dave Matthews Band fan, all I could think about while listening to Lance’s interview was “The Stone.” This songs describes the experience of a person who has done a misdeed, and begs understanding from another human being. The opening verse, I think, could apply pretty well to Mr. Armstrong’s predicament:
I've this creeping
Suspicion that things are not as they seem
Why do I feel as if I'm in too deep
I've been praying
For some way to show them I'm not what they see
Yes I have done wrong
But what I did I thought needed be done
Personally, I think the world is being pretty hard on the cyclist. Perhaps, instead of vilifying one man for what he has done, we could look, instead, at the ultra-competitive nature of sports in general. Maybe a system that idolizes winners and ignores everyone else is flawed. Could it be that by focusing on a win/lose model that we are supporting this kind of recklessness? Athletes are routinely told to push their limits and go past what they believe their bodies can handle. Who’s to say where the line in the sand should be drawn?
And what about the gift of forgiveness? Are Lance’s fans going to hold up his head when his head won’t hold on? Or will we turn away, leaving only a bone-chilling cold in our wake?
It seems to me that what the world needs most right now is mercy. That, and maybe a recognition that even athletes can’t turn water into wine.