If you follow sport news, you’ll be sick of the Lance Armstrong story by now. I know I am. It’s been a big topic that many of my class discussions are based around the past week or so- and many people are raising interesting points.
Maybe it’s my over-forgiving nature- but I still think he has shoes to fill as a role model in sport and in humanity. Yes, he did many wrongs in his career. Whether or not they were decisions made in an attempt to be the best in a sport where at his level of competition, doping was a norm- I think at this point all that is in the past and he has a choice to make. The publicity he has now is bigger than ever, and he will either choose to fade away after all this is done and the media moves on- or use this chance to do something positive for the sport with his image and experiences?
“I didn’t invent the culture.. but I didn’t change it either. And that’s my mistake”
As a leader in the sport, and a role model- whether or not he expected his teammates to follow his lead, in group situations it takes a pretty ballsy team member to stand up to the leader- but were they ever denied their own right to choose?
“I was the leader of the team, therefore I set the example”
Athletes at every level make sacrifices to achieve goals in sport. So much of sport is calculating risk. We give up time, money, relationships, other opportunities, etc, because something inside us creates an insatiable drive to reach the next level. One of the ideas proposed in one of my lectures was what if doping is just another sacrifice. In a sense, it is just taking that drive one step farther. What if it was viewed as okay, regardless of the negative side effects to the human body. For some athletes, this is a logical path to achieving goals in sport. Doing whatever it takes. As Lance has stated in his Oprah interview, it didn’t feel like cheating at the time. He viewed it as a level playing field- knowing that many of his peers were also doping. He made the choice that he thought was what needed to be done. How he handled that choice throughout his career and the people who got caught in the crossfire is debatably awful, even he admits- but he stuck by that decision. I don’t view doping as a logical or ethical way to achieve a goal, in any context, but regardless of personal opinions, what if doping was regulated? If it was viewed as acceptable. A new way to see what the human body could do? This was another question posed to my Intro Kin class. In this hypothetical situation, how many athletes would be doping? A lot. Surprisingly, and this is really awesome, majority of the athletes in the lecture said that they wouldn’t feel as though they were true athletes anymore- if this were the case. Sport is about pushing the human body to new limits, busting your ass to reach a goal. It was argued that we could push the body to amazing feats with enhancement drugs and doping- so wouldn’t that be a new level of epic in sport? Countered by many of us by.. but if it’s not real… is it really that great? It turns all sport into somewhat of an act, and doesn’t that defeat the point? Would any of us, as athletes, feel accomplishment and pride in this context?
I believe Lance has a huge chance to change the face of his sport. I think he already has. He has lost the respect he held as a elite athlete, stripped of wins, but will he work to regain that respect in another way? He’s been a leader in sport his entire career- will he maintain that characteristic and use it to make some right out of his wrongs? His sport, the world he lived in, is being exposed as a pretty ugly place. He has a chance now to help rebuild that image- as it will need repairing if it is to survive in the ever changing, very public, media corrupt world of elite athletics.
This is a man who admittedly abused his power as a leader in sport. As a role model to millions of people all over the world. What will he do with it now? So many people have lost their belief in what he stood for and they have every right to be disappointed, but if he really thought his intentions were right in the moment- regardless of what we know now, is there not still some inspiration to be found there? I think many people would find that if they were put in a similar situation, their stories would play out similar to this one. As an athlete I would hope that if I was placed in his world I would make different choices, but I have no idea what it is to be at that level in that particular sport, or any sport. It’s a completely different world, that few- if any- truly understand. Nobody can predict what choices they will make in a given situation. It’s inevitable that we will make the wrong choice, or a choice that feels right, but in hindsight wasn’t. I really think it’s what we do with the results, where we go from the mistakes, that decides who we are. I’m sure I’m one of few followers of this story that still has respect for Lance Armstrong. Even if he is only coming clean after being forced to by mountains of evidence. He has a lot of work to do to even begin to rebuild the trust he has broken. That is undeniable.
I hope for his sake, and for sport, that he does do the work. I hope that he can become a role model again, for the integrity of sport, for the people that once found him inspiring. I also hope that the public will be open minded about whatever else is to come of this. We all have something to learn from his story, from his mistakes, and in turn from our own mistakes.