I can’t really put into words exactly how I felt when I found out he was admitting what so many claimed to have known for so long. I have had role models and people I have looked up to before, but somehow this transcended the roles filled by some in the past, at least for me. In short, I was crushed.
I’ve spent the week reading the various documents containing the USADA allegations, or I guess facts? I’ve also spent the week watching my social network blow up with hate towards the man who lied to us all. I’ve read countless articles speculating about this, that, and the other. Now I have spent the past two nights taking in all that the man himself had to say.
I will be the first to say that when it was officially put out that Lance was indeed confessing his sins, I was angry as much as hurt. I imagine like countless others around the world, I felt let down and betrayed. I contemplated his actions surrounding this entire web of lies and eventually concluded that Lance Armstrong is nothing short of a sociopathic monster. At least that was my first reaction. For me it’s not so much about the doping. I don’t in any way agree that, because “everyone was doing it” justifies anything. What really made me angry was the great length to which he went to continue his façade. He sued people that were just trying to do the right thing. He threatened people with violence. He not only denied outright that he was a liar and doper, he went the opposite direction and was pompous enough to speak as if he had the moral fiber of someone so far above cheating that it never would have entered your mind. Those are the pieces that I found most troubling. That takes a conscious effort to go that far in the opposite direction from the truth. Of course, there is still speculation as to just what of those allegations are true, but at this point I clearly have no reason to believe Mr. Armstrong, so who knows how bad things really got.
As I sat watching the interviews I pondered as to just why I was watching in the first place. Did I just want to see the train wreck? Did I suspect that somehow he would have a good explanation that would make this all go away? No, I was watching for one clear reason, I wanted to see some sign of remorse. Lance hurt me, and I wanted an apology. A real apology. I wanted to look into his eyes as he talked and judge him for myself.
The first night I watched with an open mouth. I couldn’t believe it was actually true. Then I couldn’t believe how casual he was taking the interview. After the end of part 1 I was angrier than before. I hadn’t seen a single sign of remorse. In fact there were times where it almost seemed as if the two were talking about some unknown 3rd party. The moment I was looking for didn’t come until halfway through part 2 of the interview.
Oprah asked Lance about his son. Lance’s son had apparently been defending his dad to assorted internet trolls. Anyone who has spent a bit of time trolling the comments on YouTube can imagine what those conversations were probably like. Word finally got to Lance about it and according to him, that was the catalyst that set his decision to come clean (no pun intended) into motion. When you become a parent this weird thing happens where suddenly anything remotely serious pertaining to children has the potential to almost bring you to tears in a blink. I couldn’t imagine carrying on a lie like this and finding out my daughter was reinforcing it just because she loved her dad and didn’t want people saying bad things about me. Apparently neither could Lance. For the first time this week I felt like maybe Lance wasn’t a complete heartless Robot Winning Machine. Maybe there was a little something human inside of him. I’m a very sympathetic person. It’s a natural response for me to just identify with people when they face challenges, big or small. Until this point I couldn’t identify with Lance. But suddenly there it was, that human moment that made me feel like maybe there was some remorse for what he did. I bet that conversation with his children was more difficult than any other he will ever have to have. I don’t think that anything Lance did was justified, but now I at least feel like he is a little more human. Which got me thinking a little more…
Lance is just a guy. The pedestal that I… that we… put him on is not one that he asked to be put on. Sure he didn’t climb out of the limelight, but after some of those successes, who could? Lance wanted to win, and we wanted him to win. We cheered when he went back for more. We raised him up to the level of hero without so much as batting an eye. I want to do a dance after I climb one reasonably big hill…I can only imagine how he must have felt after a big win. The truth is, Lance made some bad decisions. He made some really bad decisions. He got caught in his own web of lies and now he is paying the price. But that small showing of what I thought was genuine remorse was enough for me to lighten up on him.
The truth is that Lance has inspired millions of people. He has also raised millions of dollars towards solving a serious global problem. The fact that we are all feeling so let down by Lance is no one’s fault but our own. We enabled his behavior by placing the man above his cause and his message. We treated him like a super hero. The fact is, his message is still a good one.
Don’t back down in the face of a challenge. Believe in yourself. Work hard. Put your faith in something, even if that something is yourself.
It’s unfortunate that at some point Lance lost site of his words. But the truth is, Lance is just a man. Man is flawed. We all make mistakes and bad decisions now and again, but the true reason we loved Lance isn’t because of who he was personally, it’s because of what he stood for. Lance taught me that anything is possible. Now that he has come clean (no pun intended), he probably won’t be the poster boy for what he himself stood for anymore, but that doesn’t cheapen his cause. That doesn’t have to make the story of this man who fought overwhelming odds for something he believed in any less inspiring. His fall from glory only serves as a reminder of just how hard life can be. At some point in life we all must make a decision that could alter the course of our future. Next time I meet with one of those decisions I will look at Lance, once again for inspiration. This time it won’t be for what to do, it will just be fore what not do to.
Choose to be honest. Choose to work hard and persevere. Choose to go your own route, even if everyone else is going a different way. Love the people close to you and respect them enough to consider their feelings. Live strong, don’t ever give up.
I don’t know what should happen to Lance from here out. I don’t think it’s fair of me to say. Believe me when I say that at some point this week I have contemplated many options… some including tar and feathers…some including jail time… and some including making him race the Tour de France 2013 route on his 11 year old daughters bicycle for a year straight… but ultimately I don’t care.
The remorse I saw in that second interview was enough to tell me that he has a long road of personal suffering ahead. The press, me, you, the world… I guarantee you nothing will weigh heavier on him than what his children will think of him as they grow older. I don’t think that excuses anything, but It told me what I wanted to know. He is sorry.
To Lance, who will likely never visit the internet again to see this, I say this:
You were an inspiration to me. You gave me courage. I’m sorry that I placed unreasonable expectations on you. I forgive you and I thank you for being honest. While I am still hurt by your actions, I will still look to your example to help become a better person.