Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
It doesn’t matter if Lance Armstrong cheated to win seven Tour de France titles on his way to becoming the most revered bicycle racer in history. That’s right – it doesn’t matter.
Why? Because he beat cancer against the odds and used his ensuing comeback to inspire millions to wage all-out attacks in their own personal battles with the disease. His efforts have not been limited to inspiration, either. Through his namesake Livestrong Foundation, over $400 million has been raised to help fight cancer and provide support for its victims. And here’s the waterproof grease in the sealed bearings: None of this would have happened if Armstrong didn’t win, and if performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) aided him in succeeding, the world is a better place as a result.
His detractors, sidetracked by focusing on what Lance Armstrong does to make a living, have lost perspective. Although he has been paid millions of dollars to do it, the fact remains that his job is riding a bicycle. I don’t mean that derogatorily. I simply mean to put the doping allegations into context.
I use the word “allegations” as a bow to precision because, let’s be clear, I believe Lance Armstrong used PEDs throughout his career. I have convicted him in the court of my own opinion where I know for sure that people are not always innocent just because they haven’t been caught red-handed.
The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. Not all four ex-teammates who have admitted their own guilt and implicated him in using drugs with them are lying, and never failing a drug test proves nothing since the archives are full of stories about athletes who never tested positive for PEDs during their careers yet later admitted using them regularly nonetheless. The record of widespread drug use in the peloton implies opportunity. Armstrong’s maniacal focus, dedication to training, and unquenchable desire to win convincingly suggest motive.
But, if I can convict this easily, I can also pardon. He deserves no punishment for cheating in what is only a game. Suffering in the bicycle racing world where Armstrong heaped it on his competitors with every alleged EPO-aided breakaway, testosterone-boosted hill climb, and HGH-fired finish line sprint is transient. The suffering in oncology centers throughout the world where he has given time, money, and hope is real.
“What about all the money he may have fraudulently won?” the detractors cry, pounding their pitchforks on the ground, careful to keep the torches away from their hair tousled from frustrated pulling.
That worry is wasted. The investment in Lance paid off in full long ago. How many bikes and accessories did Trek and Nike sell because of the seven yellow jerseys won by their man? Even if he had to give those trophies back would the sponsors have to empty their cash registers for rebates to their customers? Not a chance. And what of the customers? The images they sought to portray by using Armstrong-endorsed products throughout the years gave them their money’s worth of the cool factor, plus the goods were good.
It could be argued that Armstrong’s competitors have a legitimate ax to grind. I argue they don’t. As the evidence suggests, many if not most riders in the peloton used PEDs. Those who didn’t are barely more innocent. They certainly went along with it not unaware. As it is, PEDs appear to be a part of the game with all other parameters of the competition spelled out in written and unwritten rules, which carry equal weight for professionals.
This leaves us with a sticky discussion about the implications of PED use for the rest of society at large, which is nearly synonymous with children, since we adults don’t believe we can be influenced by the behaviors of celebrities.
The truth is this: Professional athletes’ use of PEDs will have virtually no effect on our children. A very small number of kids will rise to the level of athletic proficiency where PEDs will become an issue, and they will be very close to adulthood when they make the decision to use them or give up their careers in sports. Further, PEDs are expensive. Most kids can’t afford them without parental aid.
This leaves us to deal with only a minuscule number of people who might be negatively affected by Armstrong’s apparent example. The rest of society will be far more imperiled by Madison Avenue ad campaigns, sitcom innuendo, and video-game violence.
The discussion has come full circle, then. Lance Armstrong has demonstrably helped millions of cancer victims in significant ways and he will, by all indications, continue to do so. The negative effects on our society long desensitized to the steroid era of athletics are inconsequential by comparison.
The argument boils down to what is best for the greatest number of people. The ends justify the means. It’s a little bit of bad in exchange for a lot of good. It just doesn’t matter if Lance lied and cheated.
Roger Marolt knows that it is hard to write dripping sarcasm with a pen that runs dry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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