Lance Armstrong : Human

So. Lance Armstrong doped.

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.

5 comments on “Lance Armstrong : Human

  1. Amy says:

    The part that really galls me is that he was suing people for speaking out. Sued them to the point of bankruptcy in many cases, destroying their financial futures – and they weren’t lying. How do you live with yourself and do that?

    Next step is when all these people who were defamed and sued into financial ruin are going to be coming back with their own lawsuits. And Lance deserves it.

  2. Philip says:

    Dont you think that along with his daughter defending him to Internet trolls, the overwhelming amount of evidence and the fact that he will want I race again had something to do with his “confession”? I don’t really call it a confession since he just confirmed what a lot of people knew and had been stating as fact for a while now. I get what you’re saying about him being unfairly escalate as a more than human role model or example of a survivor, but it would be different if he hasn’t capitalized on every aspect of our glorification of him as a survivor and mee importantly winner. If he hasn’t won that many tours or if he had finished 5 a few times, no one would give two shits. It’s because he dominated, like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bond’s head before him dominated at a level that’s not possible without performance enhancing drugs. So strip him of his medals, vests, gold played pogo sticks and he’s just a guy who cheated because the alternative was being unexceptional. I’m sorry but livestrong stood for something and that something was Lance Armstrongs character and fortitude, which we now know was less stellar than advertised. It’d be like a famous writer plagiarizing or famous singer lip syncing, he didnt do it by himself, it was a scam. Therefore I think his version of live strong was do what it takes to win which is a terrible lesson for anyone and especially all the kids who looked up to him. Ok diatribe over, lets go expose some more fake Internet girlfriends of closeted football players cause that’s news.

    1. aaronthestrong says:

      No I don’t think him wanting to race is anything that played into it. It doesn’t sound like he wants to compete on a level that would actually matter anyways. He’s a competitive guy, obviously, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he will always want to compete in something. The man stood for an idea that was bigger than him. Just because he made terrible decisions and was a terrible person doesn’t mean that anything he ever said or stood for wasn’t good. I found him inspirational for selfish reasons, but to the millions of people who took some solace from the message he was preaching, he gave them something more. I think he gave people hope that really needed it, and to strip that from them because he was actually a liar and a cheat isn’t fair. Furthermore it’s not up to me to do that. People can still learn from him and believe in an idea that is bigger than even the almighty Lance. It’s up to each and every one of us to decide if we can still believe in what he stood for, or if we just idolized the wrong man for the wrong reasons.

  3. Great post Aaron. I think you hit on what a lot of people have felt and are feeling about Lance. One comment that I will make in support of what you said is that he is a man; human. I truly believe it is not up to us to judge someone for their wrongdoings. I’ve been a fan of Lance’s for years- a die hard, and when I look at the mistakes he’s made, the horrible decisions, I can’t help but think of my own downfalls. We all screw up. One difference though is that my mistakes haven’t been for the whole world to see. I think that if any of us take a good hard look at ourselves, we might find that if we lived in the limelight for others to watch, our mistakes would label us as “horrible human beings” as well. So I won’t judge Lance; I won’t hate him- why? because I don’t think he is horrible. I still like Lance. I still admire him…maybe even more now, because we are both fuck ups, and I can relate to that! lol.

    Lance is hardly the first person in a position of power to screw up royally…are you listening Bill Clinton? Bill did shitty things (he’s done good things too), but we all pretty much forgave him didn’t we? Just something to think about…

  4. I have been going through old things I bookmarked, so this response is a little delayed.

    To be fair, Lance was pretty much my only sports idol once I was a teenager. I never much cared for professional sports, but hey, this guy rides bikes and kicks the world’s ass, I can dig it. I always thought he was being singled out and picked on with the various doping charges. I guess the endless wave of them should have been my first clue. But I always defended him, until this report and this interview. Maybe I just didn’t want to believe it.

    As far as the interview – after all of the lies, why would anyone have any reason to think he suddenly is going to tell the whole truth? He was just covering his ass with the Oprah interview. He knew that damning USADA report was coming out, so he switched to damage control mode. While I do believe his son was defending his dad’s “honor”, I have trouble believing he even felt a tiny little spark of emotion concerning it. It was a great story for the media to pick up, but I don’t buy it. He lied to his kids, along with everyone else. I would never trust anything he says, and I am not even sure I believe he is actually sorry.

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