I watched Oprah’s face to face with Lance Armstrong this week. I’m not a huge cycling fan. The Tour de France only interests me as far as how close the race course might come to the nearest patisserie. I’ve seen the yellow bracelets and looked in to the Livestrong organization. But one thing always struck me as peculiar: did he really think nobody knew he was up to something ? That denying accusations of doping would make us believe it ? Apparently pride can really goeth before the fall.
In this day and age of competition, it appears that doping is quietly rampant. We all like to think it’s not and I’m not judging all professional athletes as dopers. I’m sure there are some that compete without chemical assistance. I assume, for the most part though, that this is not the case. I don’t think they can compete without it. And as much as the organizations that govern pro sports try to monitor and discourage and penalize, Lance Armstrong was able to keep it on the down low for 10 years or more. His mistake ? Winning too much. He raised suspicion. Why ? Pride. He admits to loving to win. Perhaps too much by his own admission.
Had Lance Armstrong chosen to spread out his Tour de France wins, I’ve no doubt that he would still be doping. When you get to his level, I would imagine the pressure to win is unbelievable. I’m competitive but more in the winning the debate, out-reading, better cup of tea kind of way. I’ve less than no desire to race down a mountain on two wheels that could at any moment hurtle me in to a world of pain. Being able to be this athletic has it’s ups and downs. Lance is currently experiencing the down. The question is: will his pride help him to survive this international spanking or take him further in to decline ?
He is proud of the Livestrong organzation. So much so, that he was willing to accept the request to distance himself so that it can continue to do its great work for cancer. He is proud of being a father. So much so, that he finally looked his kids in the eye and took responsibility for lying to them. He is proud of being an athlete. So much so that he is, though initially unwillingly, going to be the poster boy for what doping is doing to professional competition. Though it was pride that greatly contributed to his downfall, I firmly believe that it will be his pride that allows whatever kind of comeback he can muster.
This will be a divisive topic for a while. There are those that believe he is wrong down to the ground and deserves no second chance. There are those that cannot delineate his role with Livestrong from his role as a doping cyclist and the organization will suffer for it. There are those that will still live in disbelief that their champion could ever be one that dopes despite his admission of guilt. What I hope is that his pride will serve as a tool to his rehabilitation. This is a man that put an international face on cancer and hope. This is a man who has inspired millions to get moving and live a healthier life. This is a man who has more to give to society than just being the poster boy for doping. This man has done things he can still be proud of.
My point ? That everybody makes mistakes. The vast majority of us will never know what life in the spotlight is like and having yes people at our beck and call. We will never know the pressures and choices that pro athletes have to make between sponsors and earning a living. Do I support doping ? Not at all. I think it is the demise of what a true athlete is and a death knell for sportsmanship. But I do believe in separating behaviours from the person and examining the whole picture. I do believe in second chances for those that get caught up in their pride and make mistakes. After all, pride goeth before the fall and spectacularly fallen Lance has. He can only go up from here.
What I hope we all realize is that pride can go both ways. It can be a positive motivator that charges us to do better. It can be something we use as a tool during times where things aren’t going so well to remind us of what we can do. It can also cause us to get too wrapped in the hype and you begin to believe you are infallible. That your pride in yourself and from others makes you invincible. I guess he should be grateful he didn’t have a wife coming at him with a golf club. Not even pride is going to protect you from a driver being swung by a woman scorned. Now that Lance Armstrong knows we are watching, hopefully we can go forward and watch with pride.