Friday, January 18, 2013

What to Think of Lance Armstrong

I’m not trying to change your mind. I’m not trying to convince you of anything. I’m still trying to sort out how I feel.
I’m disappointed. It’s sad to think that someone that provided inspiration and excitement in bicycling to me didn’t win the races on his own.
It’s understandable, when I see that many of the top cyclists have been caught. So many that the titles vacated by Armstrong will not be awarded to anyone. A hundred years from now it might look like the race was suspended for 7 years. However with lots of people cheating, maybe it is somewhat of a level playing field. That doesn’t excuse breaking the rules, but I do understand.
It’s despicable to hear of Armstrong’s actions towards fellow humans. Other racers, spouses of racers, reporters and more. I won’t repeat the things said since I don’t know what’s true, what’s exaggerated and what’s made up. I believe something happened, and it’s not what I’d want anyone to do, much less someone famous that kids hear about, read about, and are inspired to be like.
It’s a balance. Gandhi wasn’t great to his family, and allegedly cheated on his wife. Thomas Jefferson, one of our founders, owned slaves and measured his profitability in various ways by managing his slaves differently. J. Edgar Hoover, who did a lot to help strengthen law enforcement in the US had numerous issues. Google if you want to know. Phil Knight inspired many with Nike, and he donates to lots of cause. And he also used a lot of cheap, child labor.
Many people that have publicly done great things were not good people in private. Some people you might admire, you’d not want as friends. I don’t excuse it, but I see sometimes there’s a balance of sorts. Armstrong did amazing physical things with the help of science, but he still did them. He was likely an incredibly cold, ruthless, mean asshole to many people. He provided incredible inspiration, help, and time to people battling cancer.
I don’t think this is a balance, as in two sides of a scale. It’s not the good that Armstrong did weighed against the bad. I’m not in that business, and I’ll let him be judged as he will be. However I see this as facets, different sides to the person and the good, the bad, the charity work, the lawsuits, the personal visits and the lies all come together. Not in a I like or dislike Armstrong, not in a he’s good or bad, but that he’s all those things.
I appreciate what he’s done for people that are dying, people that are literally fighting for their lives. It’s always grated on my that Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods, both of whom have given lots of charity, don’t do more publicly to inspire and help people. They are private people, and that’s their right, but it’s been disappointing to me that they didn’t do more.
However you feel, I’d urge you to listen to this radio piece with Stuart Scott of ESPN, who is battling cancer. It’s before the Oprah interview aired. He doesn’t excuse Armstrong, but it does bring perspective to the way you might view Armstrong.
I see Armstrong as having done a lot to help other people. Whether to make amends for something else or not, he’s done a lot of good. I applaud that. I’m not sure he’s someone I’d like to know, do business with, or even have a conversation with, and I’m saddened by the way he’s behaved.
On PEDs, I’m not sure how I feel. The line of where we draw a PED is strange, and like many rules, it’s somewhat political. We make decisions on what to allow as a “drug” or supplement, with some rational, but not a consensus. The world changes, we create new compounds, learn more, and it isn’t always the clear that all athletes are competing in a level way. Not equal or even fair, but even that we understand they are consuming the same foods and their performance is just based on training. I’m not sure I’d like to see better testing, or lesser standards, or perhaps just give up and see who can truly push themselves to the limit, however they do it.

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