Lance Armstrong – Hero or Villain?

Lance ArmstrongI’ve spoken about Performance Enhancing Drugs in a number of other posts but with Lance Armstrong apparently admitting to his own use of PEDs in an upcoming (or already passed depending on when you read this) interview, I thought I’d revisit the subject. The main focus of the post will be an assessment of his character, hero or villain.

I maintain now, and have said for years, that virtually all athletes are using or have used PEDs. The testing is, and has been, far behind the sophisticated masking techniques available to athletes in an industry that generates billions of dollars for players, coaches, owners, vendors, and countless others. The cheating likely extends down to grade-school level where students want to gain an unfair competitive advantage over their peers.

But, if everyone is cheating then does anyone have an unfair advantage? My answer is no, they don’t. I’m not going to take on the debate if all PEDs should be made legal or not. Today I want to talk about how divisive a figure Lance Armstrong has become. I’ve been listening to sports radio talk-shows in the morning and reading articles when I come home. There seem to be two vehemently opposed camps.

Armstrong is a cheater, a lair, and a scum-bag. A villain.

Armstrong raised huge amounts of money, gave hope to countless thousands, and his transgressions were minor compared to the good he has done. A hero.

My own opinion is quite simple and, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone else is having trouble coming to the same conclusion.

  • Armstrong survived cancer and continued to play professional sports at the highest level.
  • Armstrong, like everyone else, used PEDs to gain an advantage.
  • Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times.
  • When people accused Armstrong of cheating he lied, he bullied, he attempted to ruin people’s reputation, and he sued for millions of dollars despite the fact that he knew he was using PEDs all along.
  • Armstrong’s foundation raised millions of dollars and helped countless thousands of people.

That’s it. Armstrong did some horrible, reprehensible things for which he should be rightly condemned. Armstrong did some astonishing, wonderful things for which he should be praised.

I think the problem is that those who put their faith in him are either horribly angry at this betrayal or in absolute denial because they don’t want to think they supported someone who could do the bad things that he has done. This is called Cognitive Dissonance and something everyone should know more about.

However, this isn’t a psychology class. Armstrong is a man who did very great things and very awful things. There is no more than that. Those who would absolve him of the evil he’s done because it was for the greater good are delusional. Those who would discount the good he’s done because of the miserable actions he took are just as deluded.

Can’t we look at facts and simply state the truth? He did awful things. He did good things. There is no balancing of one against the other. Both happened. If you choose to forgive him for the awful that’s fine, but don’t pretend it didn’t happen. That he didn’t set out to ruin the lives of those who, rightly, accused him. If you choose to hate him then don’t forget the amazing good he has done for those suffering from the awful scourge of cancer.

That is all. Have a great day!

Tom Liberman

4 thoughts on “Lance Armstrong – Hero or Villain?

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