Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lance Armstrong, Thomas Jefferson: what do they have in common?

They are both big disappointments, whose actions don't quite match up with their words or the ideals they supposedly portrayed.

Finding out Lance Armstrong was indeed hiding the fact that he doped is like reconciling the fact that anti-slavery advocate Thomas Jefferson owned slaves himself. HOWEVER, Lance withdrawing from the fight against USADA is not a conviction; it's just a concession.

What both men did was was WRONG, but both were doing what they did as a product of their cultures.  Thomas Jefferson probably couldn't have run a plantation--and made it lucrative--in the 1700s without slaves. Doesn't make it okay. Makes it a fact. He knew it was immoral, but he did it to survive "at the top" as I understand it.

Lance might have won a Tour, but certainly not seven, without doping. Was he alone, absolutely, 1000% NOT. Does it make it okay? Absolutely not. Does it make every cyclist who has ever doped a criminal? Is it possible to  ferret out every single offender? Absolutely not. I've even read allegations that the great Eddy Merckx supposedly used some performance enhancers (I have that info third or fourth-hand and can't find evidence, so I hesitate to write it, but it does imply how widespread and long-lasting the problem is). And Merckx is like a god in cycling fans' minds.

 If nothing else, this whole thing proves how nothing in the world is "black and white" (And that's a bad term to use in the same paragraph as the term "slavery," so excuse me). The whole Lance thing makes me sad, but I think everybody sort of knew Lance doped. His most famous refutation: "I've never tested positive." And at the same time, he did so much good for the cancer community. This doesn't make him evil. It does mean he lied. He also made us hope and dream: Look what a human being is capable of. What can I do, therefore? Most of the greats have doped. Doesn't make it okay, but Maybe we can just clean up the sport from here on out. I think stripping the yellow jerseys from past wins is sort of futile: where would one stop?

Perhaps the best media response is that of five-time Tour de France champion, Bernard Hinault, who was unsympathetic to Armstrong's plight.
"I couldn't give a damn," the French cycling icon told when asked about the Armstrong news. "It's his problem, not mine. This is a problem that should have been sorted out 10 or 15 years ago but which never was." Find this here.

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