Lance Armstrong: A Bright Shining Lie?

As federal agents prepare a grand jury case against Lance Armstrong (a dubious undertaking, from a legal standpoint, on many levels) several questions must be asked. The outcome of the investigation may lead to the downfall of one of the greatest sports stories (and athletes) in the history of the world, or it could lead to the complete exoneration of a legend who will then deserve an enormous apology from his many doubters. More likely, it will lead to some sort of messy place in between those two things. Wherever it leads, it will cost an enormous amount of money and time and will be unlikely to change much about sports, cycling or improve the public perception of either. With all that in mind, Andrew Corsello may be on the right track when he pleads with Lance to just stick to his story, regardless of the actual facts.

Lance Armstrong is either the greatest cyclist (potentially greatest athlete) in history or he is one of the worst (but most successful) cheats in history. He is, without question, the most most successful cancer survivor in history, one of the most successful cancer fund-raisers in history and the most tested athlete in history. In all those hundreds upon hundreds of tests in both the off season and during all his races, he has tested positive exactly zero times. To date the number of people, including even the absurdly bitter Floyd Landis and the perennially accusatory Greg LeMond, that have ever even alleged that they have actually seen Lance use performance enhancing drugs or blood doping procedures is also exactly zero. This while seemingly all around him in the peloton, other cyclists were falling to positive drug tests and substantiated allegations. Lance rode above it all, and even in the wake of persistent rumors and repeated investigations, no proof of wrongdoing has ever been found against him.

Despite that fact, the cynical among you (and you know who you are, your fingers are already itching to type the jaded comments that will inevitably appear below) have already concluded that Lance is guilty of doping and has been for years. You can be excused for those feelings, of course, after practically every rumour of athletic drug cheating (and most other rumors as well) ever uttered has already been substantiated in numerous recent investigations that seemed designed specifically to destroy any confidence anyone ever had in the integrity of sports. Are we always going to be disappointed by the sports heroes we most admire, or is it possible that some of the most heroic are actually worthy of our admiration? We may never really know the answer to those questions, but whether we do or not, it’s perhaps understandable that after all we’ve been through before, when the hard questioning in the Armstrong case starts, we will mostly just wince and turn away.

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