There seems to be a lesson in the Lance Armstrong drug debacle that is being overlooked. While there is little doubt that Armstrong was heavily involved in the use of banned chemical substances (prompting the U.S Anti-Doping Agency to call him a serial cheat) he was far from alone. And those who are connected with the sport including the administrators and sponsors were aware of this. Like its Athletics counterpart, Cycling has been saturated with performance enhancing drugs for decades, many riders forming the view that drug usage is so widespread that if they don't inject they'll be at a disadvantage to the many who do.
Following this logic it could be argued that a drugged up Armstrong's seven Tour De France victories were secured against a drug fuelled opposition, thus making his wins legitimate by evening up the playing field, so to speak. It's a grim argument, but it is a fair assumption. Since the revelations of his drug use, Armstrong has basically been torched like a witch. Sponsors have cut ties while those reponsible for keeping the sport clean bay for more blood to cover their own incompetence. He has been branded a liar, a thief, a cheat, a criminal, you name it. And yet he recently received a standing ovation at the anniversary celebration of the Livestrong Foundation for cancer research which he founded in 1997, even though compelled to resign as chairman.
Thanks largely to his own efforts, approx $500 million has been raised for cancer research. Those who stood didn't see a cheat, they saw a cancer survivor who had subsequently used his earnings to help others do the same. Lesson? Perspective. Armstrong's image was clean in a dirty sport, now they are stained together. The sponsors hopped on board knowing that cycling was rife with drug usage, but now they dump him and the sport because the truth they were already aware of is out, and it's just not too good for their image. And the cycling chiefs who failed dismally for decades to clean it up? It's now feigned outrage and reprisals to save face.
It is a sordid example of money over principle, of saving face, of holier than thou grandstanding, and of losing perspective about the things that matter. The good that came from Lance Armstrong's career is the Livestrong Foundation - when it comes to matters of life and death the rest pales into insignificance. Pushing a bike down a road, fulfilling fans' fantasies, sponsors' greed and administrators' egos, amounts to nothing in the scheme of things. But living with cancer and surviving it is an inspirational achievement. Giving hope to others who are also afflicted, likewise. The lesson is about knowing embracing and appreciating the things in life of real value. As for cycling, frankly, even if Armstrong and his rivals were all squeaky clean he still would have won.