I just saw a report that Lance Armstrong is stepping down as chairman of the Livestrong charity he built to inspire and empower cancer sufferers. It comes after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency reported “overwhelming evidence” that Armstrong engaged in doping while he was a professional cyclist.
Armstrong was robbed.
Much has been made of doping in professional sports. Frankly, I couldn’t care less if athletes use steroids. So what? The media acts like it’s a new thing in professional sports, when the reality is that some form of drug enhancement has been going on in the profession longer than I’ve been alive. To be the athlete that inspires millions, you need a raw talent and drive that most people could only hope to have. Dope all you want. If you don’t have the talent and determination to begin with, you’re going nowhere.
Armstrong’s case is particularly sad. Here is a man who overcame testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain and then won the Tour de France seven times. He became a hero in the eyes of millions and that helped turn his Livestrong foundation into one of the biggest cancer-fighting charities in the country.
As far as I’m concerned, he wasn’t a hero because he won the Tour de France. He was a hero simply because he went the distance multiple times in that brutal competition. Had he come in 10th place, he still would have been a hero to me, because he overcame a deadly disease and showed sufferers everywhere that physical limitations need not stop them from living out their dreams.
People say steroids gave him an unfair advantage. I say the damage his body suffered from cancer put him at a huge disadvantage going in.
The doping controversy is bullshit. It was the creation of politicians that wanted something to grandstand over. Go ahead and disagree.
Some people I admire are fighting cancer right now, and because of the money raised by Livestrong they have better odds than they would have 10 or 15 years ago.
I agree with Forbes writer Chris Smith that it’s time to legalize steroids in professional sports. He writes:
If we really want to level the playing field, it may be time to head in the other direction: legalize performance enhancers.
Not only would the playing field suddenly be even for all players, it would be at a higher level. A huge part of watching sports is witnessing the very peak of human athletic ability, and legalizing performance enhancing drugs would only help athletes climb even higher. Steroids and doping will help pitchers to throw harder, home runs to go further, cyclists to charge for longer and sprinters to test the very limits of human speed. …
Detractors will argue that steroids and doping can pose health risks to the athletes involved, but athletes undertake serious health risks by simply walking onto the field or straddling a bike. Just last year, a media car ran Johnny Hoogerland off the road during the Tour de France, sending him headlong into barbed wire. Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann famously had his leg broken and career ended mid-game, and the devastating longterm effects of concussions are rapidly becoming apparent. Plus, if performance enhancers were made legal, then they could be safely distributed and regulated so that players aren’t forced to rely on shady back alley transactions for untested drugs.
We love to make heroes out of people who do big things. Unfortunately, we love to tear them down, too. Armstrong has done so much good for a lot of people. This whole affair is a shitty way to repay him.