Should Lance Armstrong Be Banned from Cycling for Being a Famous Cheater?
Fame is unkind. Remember, a few weeks ago, when Bieber ralphed onstage in Phoenix but his pre-recorded vocal track just kept right on playing? Yeah…not a good look. But yea, the Internet was there to capture Bieber's bad-look barf-o-rama, and within a few hours a relatively common occurrence (dude briefly halts conversation b/c of puke-mouth) exploded into a trash-media frenzy thanks to said dude's celebrity status and the ubiquity of online communication.
But is it really that big a deal? The puking? I puke every day—sometimes two or three times! I'm actually puking all over my keyboard right now. People in this Connecticut Muffin are giving me the most horrified looks, and you can bet they're tweeting every blueberry-scented detail of it as we speak. But you'll never read about this on Huffpo or Gawker. Because I'm not famous, nor am I worth $70 million. Yet.
Point is, it sucks to be famous and make a mistake. Another 70-million-dollar-man felt a similar sting this week when his career mistakes went massively public, though the offense, and punishment, were slightly uglier than #barfgate. The man: Lance Armstrong. The mistake: probably lying about taking and trafficking performance enhancing drugs throughout most of his record-setting cycling career.
If you haven't been following the Lance Armstrong story, here's the skinny:
- The Tour de France is a 21-day cycling marathon in and around the meandering countryside of Hobbiton.
- Oh wait, that actually should've said "France." (sorry, fingers are kind of sticky right now)
- 41-year-old American pro cyclist Lance Armstrong placed first in the Tour a record-setting 7 consecutive times from 1999 to 2005.
- This is even more impressive because in October of 1996, Lance was diagnosed with testicular cancer that eventually spread to his brain and lungs. After a blitz of treatments including the surgical removal of one testicle (yes—a teste) Lance was declared cancer-free in February of 1997. Later that year he started the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which includes the popular Livestrong campaign for cancer support.
- Lance returned to cycling in 1998 on the US Postal/Discovery team, where he remained for all of his 7 wins. He retired in 2005. Then stuff got ugly.
- In August 2005 the first claim that Armstrong had been using illegal performance enhancing drugs ("doping") was leveled by L'Equipe, a daily sports newspaper in France, after frozen urine samples (yes—frozen urine) from 1999 turned up positive for the performance-enhancing hormone erythropoietin (EPO).
- Over a several-years-long investigation Armstrong beat the accusation, but remained a constant subject of accusation and inquiry. Until…
- In June 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) accused Armstrong of doping and trafficking performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career, based on blood samples from 2009 and 2010 as well as testimony from fellow US Postal teammates. (WTF, guys! Bros before doping inquisitions!)
- Armstrong fought the charges and lost, and on August 24 the International Cycling Union (Union Cycliste Internationale, en Français) stripped him of his 7 Tour de France titles and banned him from professional cycling—forever.
- The UCI requested back the 2.95 million euros (about $4 million) in prize money they previously awarded Armstrong for his wins.
- Also, Texas insurance company SCA, who covered bonuses that Armstrong was promised if he won the Tour, may claim up to $12 million from the cyclist. They tried to withhold $5 million from him in 2005 after his initial doping allegations, but Armstrong took them to court and won. Now he'll have to pay them back, plus attorney's fees.
- Longtime sponsors including Oakley, Nike, RadioShack, and Anheuser-Busch have ceased their support of team Armstrong. However, they will continue donating to the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Livestrong campaign.
- But Lance wont be there. Armstrong stepped down as chairman of the Livestrong foundation, which will continue on under new leadership, and hopefully unabated public support. To quote one donor, "Cancer sucks and it is much bigger than Lance Armstrong."
- The USADA cites extremely compelling evidence of Armstrong's guilt. But, through all of this, Armstrong steadfastly maintains his innocence, calling the long series of investigations a "witch hunt."
- According to CNN, "When Mr. Armstrong refused to confront the evidence against him in a hearing before neutral arbitrators, he confirmed the judgment that the era in professional cycling which he dominated...was the dirtiest ever."
It's pretty much a no-brainer that the UCI had to come down hard on Lance as an example; letting a cyclist of his fame and influence essentially get away with at least 7 years of cheating is not a good look, even in theory. But is descending American sports hero Lance Armstrong truly guilty of doping throughout his record-setting career and not, as he claims, the victim of just another celebrity "witch hunt"? He says nay. Scientific evidence says, "probs."
As usual, the two sides of this story disagree. But one thing is certain: during the course of this investigation it became clear that MANY professional cyclists were doping along with Armstrong. None among them have shared his punishment, or the maelstrom of media attention that followed. Whether or not we choose to acknowledge it, doping in professional athletics happens all the time—probably about as often as barfing in professional music— and we might not even be talking about this if Lance Armstrong wasn't famous. That's the most unsettling thing of all.
What do you think of Lance's story, Sparkcycles?
Is banning Lance Armstrong from cycling forever a just punishment for his offense, or is retracting his titles and winnings enough?
Is Lance's fame and reputation being used here as a sacrifice to the media Gods so they can gobble up his inhumanly-toned body in want of compelling content?
Will banning him have any effect on the amount of doping in pro sports?
What should become of the teammates who doped alongside Armstrong and later sold him out?
Should the USADA rework its methodology so that a fiasco like this doesn't happen again?
Would that put too many athletes out of work?
Does Armstrong's cheating devalue his humanitarian accomplishments with the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Livestrong campaign?
Will you ever wear (or continue to wear) a Livestrong bracelet?
Should Justin Bieber refund every dollar he's made from concert tickets because he's been lip-synching at shows?
Help us out.