But that’s the story today, as Lance Armstrong drops his fight against doping charges by declining to enter the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s arbitration process. The organization is stripping him of his seven Tour de France titles.
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, `Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now,” Armstrong said.
“I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999,” he said. “The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense.”
USADA took that as an admission of guilt.
Banned from cycling for life.
DID THEY HAVE IT ON IN YOUR OFFICE? I know they did in mine, but that probably makes sense given that I work in the sports department of a daily newspaper. Every morning during Lance’s historic run, guys on bikes were on our TV. If you’d told me when I was studying to become a journalist that I’d spend mornings watching guys on bikes pedal up mountains, I would have instantly changed my major to Latin. Guys on bikes are not for me.
Yet there we were. And the crazy thing was, we had all kinds of company. Folks from the news department would drop by, or advertising, and they’d all say the same thing: “How’s Lance doin’?” This does not happen any other time outside of the NCAA basketball tournament. This sure as hell doesn’t happen during some cycling race staged halfway across the world.
But it did. And we cheered the valiant Texan who’d beaten the odds, spit in the face of cancer. And now many of us are conflicted: What, exactly, were we cheering?
1. Lance cheated, and he’s been lying about it ever since, and every day that he denies it is another day he looks more foolish.
2. Whether Lance cheated or not is completely irrelevant. All the good that he did, the inspiration he provided, the money he raised for cancer research — that’s what Lance is all about, titles or no titles.
3. Lance is innocent. He’s been the target of a witch hunt. He’s passed every drug test. He’s a conquering hero who has become a victim of jealously. Long live Lance, the seven-time champ.
With all due respect, I don’t know how anybody can believe No. 3 any more. It just doesn’t seem possible. Cycling is the dirtiest sport in the world. Everybody cheats. And yet Lance was the one guy who didn’t — AND he beat all the cheaters? Seven times?
Lance tried to frame Thursday’s announcement as one final act of defiance. To me, it’s another serious blow to his legacy. Entering the arbitration process would have been Lance’s final opportunity to clear his name with USADA. In other words, the end was in sight, regardless of the outcome. He chose not to seize the final opportunity, opting instead to say the same thing he’s been saying all this time: I’m innocent. I’m Lance, remember? Believe me.
Can’t do it. Blame Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Landis, Jones, and the dozens of others who’ve stripped us of naivete. Sorry kids. Superman had help.
TO ME, THERE WAS ONE WAY LANCE COULD HAVE HANDLED THIS that would have been ideal. He could have merged the first two schools of thought with one statement: “I did it. Everybody did it. To keep up with the cheaters, I had to cheat myself. I may not be proud of that now, but I am extremely proud of what my notoriety allowed me to do as far as providing inspiration to cancer victims and what our foundation has done to help those who really need it. Thank you.”
Instead, he goes quietly into the darkness, refusing to put up one last fight, cursing the accusers. Exiled from the sport he somehow got us all to watch.
Banned from cycling for life.
DAILY DOUBLE: Still time to hop in and give us the hypothetical Jeopardy! question you would own. Or just check out the funny answers others have given already.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: High school football is back, and so is Robert Anderson’s outstanding predictions column. Check it out here.
NOT SO SPECIAL: UVa tries to straighten out its special teams woes.
IDENTIFY THE MOVIE
“No, Ivan is naturally trained.”
“Then how do you account for his… freakish strength?”
“Like your Popeye. He ate his spinach every day.”
NAME THAT TUNE
Every now and then I get down to the end of the day
And I have to stop and ask myself why I’ve done it
It just seems so useless to have to work so hard
And nothin’ ever really seems to come from it
But then she looks me in the eye and says
“We’re gonna last forever”
And man, you know I can’t begin to doubt it
No, ’cause it just feels so good and so free and so right
I know we ain’t never goin’ to change our minds about it, hey…