Tonight, Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah will screen across America, containing a confession (degree unknown) that Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs during his time as a competitive cyclist—kind of like when you pedaled your streamers-accessorized bike double-speed after eating back-to-back Cyclones that one summer. He will then testify against officials from the International Cycling Union and possibly the owners of the USPS cycling team about doping within his sport. Ah, if only Armstrong burst into laughter like a nervous macaw every time he tried to lie, as I do, he might not be in a multi-million-dollar pickle right now.
Many people have made the point that “everyone was taking drugs” and Armstrong shouldn’t be singled out for special punishment. I have made similar arguments about the harem pants craze—I wasn’t the first, and I wasn’t the last to succumb. But the difference is that Armstrong made millions off his denial that he doped; on the notion that he powered his way to seven Tour de France titles on the strength of his training, physiology and mental resolve; on his position as the LEADER of the team—a leader who reportedly pressured other cyclists into participating.
The other point, made by The New Yorker, is that after a decade of lying about his history of doping (including under oath) it wasn’t the reputation of his team members, or his need to right the record, that drove him to admit drug use. It was the ban placed on Armstrong by the IOC and other sporting bodies around the world, preventing him from competing. “Come on coach, give me another try,” Ace Ventura once pleaded no one in particular.
Getting past our collective desire to confess everything to Oprah (I also once wore denim overalls to school!), we all bring different viewpoints to this issue. Livestrong, Armstrong’s cancer awareness foundation, has done good work for many people, in providing counseling services and referrals for help with insurance and management of treatment courses (though not, as is often thought, in cancer research, which Livestrong stopped funding around 2005). Also, high or not, Armstrong is a beast on a bicycle—the SparkLife team can barely pedal its butt to Pinkberry without a Sag wagon in support, while this guy can walk up a podium in cleats, without wiping out into a display pyramid of Frosted Flakes. (Let him be an inspiration to all the ladies in high heels.)
What does the Sparkler collective think? Should he be allowed to compete again, once he confesses? Or should we keep a known doping ringleader out of sports and let honest athletes enjoy the spotlight?