My thoughts about Lance Armstrong

Joey asked me what I thought about the Lance thing and I realized it was odd I hadn’t stated such thoughts publicly. Thus:

Lance Armstrong, now that he has decided to stop fighting charges that he used blood doping and drugs as performance enhancers in order to win seven Tour de France races, has been the center of a lot of hubbub lately. He has been dropped by sponsors, his championships have been vacated, and he’s been asked to return four million dollars in prize money that he won for his team.

It’s sad that we live in a world where a sports hero can be so easily disgraced by their poor or illegal decisions, but that’s the world in which we live. And Lance Armstrong is another in a long line of great athletes who have to remove that “great” modifier because of performance enhancing drugs.

What Lance Armstrong did was wrong. But the reaction, frankly, is stupid. Vacating championships is something I’ve been against for a long time. We all know who won those Tour de France titles, regardless of what the record books officially say. That’s not a reasonable punishment, and it’s not meaningful. Furthermore, if I understand the situation correctly, the use of performance enhancers in cycling during this time was so prevalent, if we awarded the victory to the first clean finisher, we’d have to go down very far on the list of competitors.

Lance Armstrong did the wrong thing. Nike and other sponsors dumping him at this point does not fix that though. If anything, it has allowed them to milk his career for all its worth and drop him right when he’s no longer valuable to them. It’s a shameful thing for Armstrong to have doped but it’s a shameful thing for his sponsors to back out in this way now as well.

Finally, I don’t think that closing the barn door is useful once the horse has left. And in the case of Lance Armstrong, the horse apparently got away back in 2001, when the International Cycling Union chose to ignore his first positive test. Just as in baseball, those in charge chose to look the other way while a cheater generated buzz and revenue for their sport. Punishing Armstrong in 2001 would have been warranted. Eleven years later? It just seems like hypocrisy.