The Lance Effect

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Lance Armstrong. 7x Tour de France winner. Cancer crusader. And, now doper.

Honestly, no one cares about my opinion on the issue, but I’m going to tell you anyway.

Lance Armstrong is a double-edged sword for the endurance world. With his Tour de France wins he helped bring the world of cycling as a sport to the forefront. But, he also gives it a very bad name. I have no doubt that he is a great athlete, with or without the use of performance enhancement drugs. He has also done a great deal for the cancer community.

I’ve always been a fan of Lance. Of course, I didn’t want to believe he cheated his way to the top. I don’t think anyone does. But, I knew that he probably did. Cycling is a dirty sport. I’m not a fan of USADA’s, WADA’s and UCI’s approach of being guilty until proven innocent. However, at this point, I think the evidence against Lance is pretty much insurmountable. I have yet to read the 202-page case against Armstrong released by USADA, but it’s on my list to do at some point. But, from what I’ve gather it’s rather convincing that he in fact did dope while on the US Postal Service Team.

I’m not going to deny that Lance has gone on to do great things, especially in the terms of cancer awareness. But, would Livestrong exist (or at least at the strength that it does) if Lance did not win 7 Tour de Frances? Livestrong does do good things for the cancer community and I don’t think people should stop donating and supporting the organization. However, I think people fail to realize that there are other equally and some probably better organizations out there that do the same thing, but are not run (or now formally run by) a celebrity. Lance is a celebrity. Yes, he had cancer, but so have millions of other people. I respect him for using his celebrity status to help other people, but just because he is a celebrity and a philanthropist doesn’t mean he is above the rules.

This past spring Lance helped Mary Eggers raise over $90,000 for Teens Living with Cancer. I very much respect his decision to join Mary in helping raise money for a cause that she is very passionate about. I don’t know Mary personally. I read her blog and I believe she is a very respectable and honorable person. She is a true hero in all that she does. I donated $25 for the Duel in Pool this past spring. Not because of Lance, but because I believe in her and the organization’s mission. Teens Living with Cancer is a fine example of local organization that might not have all the glitz and glam of Livestrong, but does amazing things for kids that truly need help and inspiration. I encourage people to look towards local organizations to support first that way you can see how the money is spent locally in your community.

I’m sure you’ve heard, but Lance’s sponsors are dropping him like flies. Of course, there is a small chance that he is truly innocent, but I don’t believe that he is innocent. I’ve lost a lot of respect for him over the past week. I honestly believe that he is a coward. He’s been dishonest for a long time and I think it’s finally come to bite him in the rear. Lance has always claimed that he has openly made himself available for testing and has never tested positive. However, recent reports from other cyclists and people who have worked for him have stated he would drop out of races or dodge officials coming to test him when he was doping. I don’t think Lance is a bad man. I think he just did bad things. Lance is human. Humans make mistakes. It’s what we do with our mistakes that really matter.

I believe that Lance needs to come clean about his use of performance enhancement drugs. He is giving cycling a bad name. I’m sure there are cyclists out there that have probably never used drugs and won, but all their wins are questioned because of cyclist like Lance that cheated. He is a coward. He needs to grow some balls and just say “You know what? I did dope. It was wrong and I’m sorry. Now, what can I do to make cycling a cleaner sport?”

Many cyclist like Lance claim they love the sport. I’m sure they do. But, if they truly love the sport so much then I think they need to admit their faults and then ask what they can do to help make the sport cleaner and better for all the new up-and-coming stars that may fall to the pressure of using drugs.

It will be interesting to see what unfolds in the coming weeks. I honestly don’t think Lance will ever admit to doping. For his teammates that have admitted to doping in the past and accused Lance of doping also, they have already faced some of the consequences. Levi was dropped from Omega.

I think this case will open a lot of “cans of worms” in the sports world as far as using performance enhancement drugs. It has me questioning how many amateur and age group athletes have used illegal substances? How many NFL, NBA, NHL athletes have used drugs? How about college and even high school athletes? As athletes, we are constantly looking for the next best thing that will make us stronger, faster, better, but is it really worth it to cheat our ways to the top?

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