On January 17th, 2013 Lance Armstrong admitted via an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had indeed used Performance Enhancing Drugs to achieve a competitive advantage and secure his 7 consecutive Tour De France wins.
I’ve been following this story for a few weeks, taking in both the media’s perspectives and the comments of individuals posting in news blogs. While I was hesitant to immediately come to a conclusion on how I viewed this athlete given the fact others in the field are also using PEDs one consistent theme resonated in my mind. . . Iconography.
Beyond his status as a top tier athlete, Lance Armstrong had come to represent the embodiment of transcendence from infirmity to superior strength through his battle with cancer and ultimate victories in athletics. He became an icon, a point of inspiration for many that no matter the malady one is afflicted with there is always hope that one can persevere, overcome the odds and ultimately become more than merely average.
It’s a beautiful story and one we all wish to believe in. However, the shame that is brought on an icon and all those who believed his story of transcendence when the facts reveal favoritism, dishonesty, slander and the ultimate truth that the victory was not won honorably but rather through deception and unfair practices is unquantifiable.
We can debate all day what is fair when so many examples of doping have been revealed in professional sports. However, this I believe is a perfect opportunity to reset our moral compass, draw our ethical boundaries and truly level the playing field.
The United States has been renown for it’s promise of fairness and opportunity to all who’s wits and stamina are able to propel them to success in any endeavor. We have not had the same “cast system” as other older nations (those in Western Europe). This has created a more level playing field for those who are willing to work hard and use their intelligence to achieve what would not be possible without privilege in other societies.
Again, we can debate how consistent the perception of that “American Dream” and the truth is. However, I have seen enough examples in my life to know that whether or not the system is perfect, it is in fact based on fundamental ideals that to this day remain consistent to their progenitors.
I do not see the same fundamental ideals being upheld with as much vigor in competitive sports. Certainly money has had an impact on the playing field. However, as spectators, fans and even honest athletes we put our faith into institutions, organizations and our idols (Lance Armstrong formatively) to uphold these ideals and maintain a balance of fairness based on the ethical standards to which we agree. Ultimately it is we the spectators, and fans and those honest athletes who wish to stick to their ideals and play fair that fill the purses of those organizations and institutions that turn a blind eye to the unfair practices of those who are willing to cheat and beat the odds.
We owe it to ourselves, to take a stand, make our mark in the ground and say enough is enough. Otherwise let’s simply give everyone an equal amount of PEDs and let them all hash it out in the arena of the sport in question. Quid pro quo. What is fair is fair… we cannot reason beyond this simple truth.
In conclusion, as an individual who has struggled with infirmity the majority of my life, only by my own wits and the support of my family, modern medicine and the few excellent physicians who have cared for me have I been given the opportunity to become an athlete. Many hours of suffering, hard work, pain, blood, sweat and tears went into this transcendence of mine and I did it without the sponsorship of large corporations and multimillion dollar bonuses. Though, I must always admit I could not have done this alone, but I never resorted to cheating the system or indulging in flagrant abuse of drugs and procedures to enhance my performance or beyond what my natural potential was.
For a man such as Lance Armstrong I have no words to express my sentiments which would be fit for public consumption. However, I hope that this example propels anti-doping regulation further to weed out all the others who engage in unfair practices.