Lie-Strong: Armstrong Scandal Sheds Light on Lying

In the midst of all that has transpired with Lance Armstrong and his scandal, I can’t help but ask myself the age old question: why do people cheat?

Armstrong was a highly respected and deeply admired American athlete with much success. He battled and won a fight with cancer only to come out stronger, winning seven consecutive Tour de France titles and a Bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics.

However, it recently came to light that Armstrong had been doping for more than a decade, which he admitted in a sit down interview with Oprah Winfrey. In that interview he said he does not believe that he would have won seven consecutive Tour de France titles without doping.

In 2012, he was banned from cycling for life by the United States Anti- Doping Agency, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, as well as his Olympic Bronze medal, and asked to stepped down as the chairman of Livestrong.

America tends to be a forgiving nation, built upon the idea that everyone deserves a second chance, but Armstrong’s arrogance is what angers the American public almost more than the cheating.

Throughout Armstrong’s career, he was suspected of cheating on a consistent basis, and he was tested more frequently than any other cyclist in what was sometimes referred to as a “witch hunt.” However, Armstrong’s tests never prevailed positive, further encouraging Armstrong in what he probably considered a “fool proof” cheating scheme. In the face of persistent allegations, in his interviews during the past decade, Armstrong was adamant about his innocence, going so far as to pose the question to the media asking whether a man who had just survived a serious battle with cancer would put himself in jeopardy in order to use banned substances.

Through his career, Armstrong became an American hero. Young athletes looked up to him because of his ability and cancer patients looked up to him because of his perseverance. People trusted him and believed in him, never doubting for a second his innocence. Thus, when the news of Armstrong’s cheating broke, there was more than shock on the faces, in the minds, and in the hearts of the American people; there was disappointment. They could not fathom how a man who so vehemently proclaimed his innocence could actually be cheating all along and fooling the public.

As if his cheating wasn’t enough to turn stomachs, Armstrong’s treatment of those who knew the truth and threatened to reveal him for the man he really was is what left the public disgusted.

In his interview with Oprah, Armstrong admitted to being a bully. His reputation, empire, and secret had to be protected at all costs, and he was willing to trample upon anyone who threatened to put his perceived good name in jeopardy. Armstrong allegedly threatened people, either personally or through those who worked for him.

Betsy Andreu, wife of Armstrong’s former teammate Frankie Andreu, claims that she heard Armstrong admit to doctors that he had used performance enhancing drugs, and when she threatened to expose his secret, she faced intense bullying. Andreu recently spoke of the heinous names Armstrong called her, as well as the late night phone calls she received, threatening the safety of her family. She claims that these phone calls were made on behalf of Armstrong in an effort to deter her from speaking the truth. Armstrong himself admitted in his interview with Oprah that he had called Andreu very demeaning names.

Lying is one thing, but it is very hard for many to forgive Armstrong for his horrid treatment of those who wanted to speak the truth. His behavior would be understandable if he was combating negative rumors and vicious lies, but those around him were planning to expose the truth- a truth which needed to be revealed after years of lying and covering up.

Despite Armstrong’s blatant cheating and lying, it is the good that he has done for those with cancer that makes people feel conflicted in regards to how to feel about him.

In addition to Armstrong’s career, his creation of Livestrong, a charity which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research, was a huge success. Livestrong is also known for the emotional support it provides to those with cancer.

Because of the immeasurable good Armstrong’s charity does for those with cancer, it is difficult for people to determine how to feel about Armstrong. Should his cheating outweigh the positive contribution he has made to cancer research and the lives of those with cancer, or should society condemn him and consider the money raised by Livestrong to be “dirty money” because it was raised using the name of a disgraced athlete who cheated his way to the top? While many have given up on Armstrong, there are some who believe that it is more important to look into Armstrong the man, not the athlete.

ESPN’s Stuart Scott, who is once again undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, spoke to Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic from ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning to discuss the support Livestrong and Armstrong personally provided him. He said that Armstrong was there for him when he was first diagnosed, and he could not express in words what it meant to him and his family to have the strong support Livestrong provides. Scott looks past Armstrong’s transgressions because he says that everyone makes mistakes because we are all human beings. He went so far as to say that people would be able to find skeletons in everyone’s closets if they looked hard enough.

While I agree that we all make mistakes and deserve forgiveness, I do not agree with Scott that we should simply look past Armstrong’s actions because he has done a lot for charity.

Armstrong did not fight fair. He cheated hundreds of other athletes out of the opportunity to have a legitimate chance at winning. He fooled the American public and made many of us feel guilty for accusing a man who had survived cancer of using performance enhancing drugs.

Maybe I, as well as others, could have forgiven Armstrong if he had been more forthcoming about his cheating, but the chances of Armstrong coming clean would have been very unlikely if he had not been caught. There is also a good chance Armstrong would have never admitted to his bullying tactics if his victims had not spoken up.

With this said, I do believe that everyone deserves a second chance, but some behavior is unforgivable and inexcusable. Sometimes, simply saying “I’m sorry” is not enough.

Thus, I ask again, should we forgive Armstrong in light of all of the good he has done? On the one hand, he is a man who has overcome personal tragedy in order to achieve success and establish a platform from which to do good for others. On the other hand, he is a man who cheated his way to success and admitted to bullying those who threatened to reveal his cheating. In the end, it depends on one’s point of view and how they see the world. While there are many who will never look at Armstrong the same way again, there are also many who share Scott’s point of view.

Armstrong was once considered to be among the best American athletes and certainly one of the best cyclists in history, but he is now regarded with the disdain and scorn reserved for criminals. So I pose the question again: why do people cheat?

Armstrong is now a disgraced athlete stripped of everything he once held near and dear, and he was forced to sever all ties with Livestrong in what was described as “the most humbling moment of the experience.” Armstrong’s interview didn’t give viewers any insight into why he did what he did, but he has left many even more skeptical as to whether Armstrong is truly sorry. When asked if he had remorse, Armstrong paused with defiance in his eyes and said, “everyone that gets caught is burned out they got caught.” Armstrong is sorry he got caught more than he is sorry for his behavior.

In the end, we may never know why cheaters cheat, but I can’t help want to ask them, was it really with it?