Today is the day. According to multiple news outlets, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the world’s most infamous and (previously seemingly) successful cyclist, Lance Armstrong, has admitted to intentionally using performance-enhancing drugs. The interview is scheduled to be aired today on Oprah’s OWN network.
The significance of the admission is obvious:
- Armstrong has been incredibly successful; his career has included 7 Tour de France victories (albeit titles of which he has since been stripped). And,
- Armstrong has vehemently denied drug usage for years; his denials have also, often, arguably, publicly defamed other people…
When fellow Tour winner (and fellow Tour-title-stripped winner), Floyd Landis, implicated Armstrong, Armstrong publicly declared Landis “desperate for attention and money.”
When the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was investigating, Armstrong called the head of the quasi-government agency, Travis Tygart, “obsessed” with “getting” him, boldly proclaiming that Tygart was executing an “unconstitutional witch hunt.”
With today finally being the day, we now know that all of the above were lies. We also know that all of the denials of truth telling around him were intentional efforts to discredit others instead of deal with self. (We like to do that sometimes… discredit others instead of deal with self… but alas, I digress…)
Once more, the infamous has fallen from grace.
Some fall hard, friends… well, at least initially… Marv Albert, Jim Bakker, Kobe Bryant, John Edwards, Tonya Harding, Marion Jones, Richard Nixon, Sandi Patty, David Petraeus, OJ Simpson, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods… persons supposedly at the “top of their game,” widely admired, yet those who fell a long, long way down.
My mind wanders…
Did they ever deserve to initially be so admired? Did we allow their words, athleticism, or success to substitute for a wrongful impression of sound character?
Did their immoral act simply unveil their true character — a character that was previously well hidden under the surface of celebrity? That’s fascinating to me, especially as I see many of the above seem to pay only the penance of time, flying intentionally below the media radar for a specified period — and then ease back into a comparable, original role, undoubtedly hoping few will mention the reason for their fall.
Still, are they each capable of redemption? I mean, most of us observed what happened at Penn State last fall — and the extent of the passion directed not only at the perpetrator but also at all associated with him. Was/is Jerry Sandusky even capable of redemption? What if we ever falter? … are we capable?
Finally — thinking again of Armstrong’s admission — how should we feel about the “good” Armstrong has previously done? Lance Armstrong’s “Live Strong Foundation” has provided significant support and inspiration to cancer survivors for years. Now that Armstrong’s unethical acts are evident, how are we to think about the past good he has done? Was it all just a facade? Can the efforts and actions now even be considered good?
Once again I’m humbly reminded as to how consistently through history, broken people are used for a greater good. Warts and all — many who have at one time (or more) engaged in unethical acts — can still contribute to the good.
I wonder then what the future holds for Lance Armstrong. Is he capable of redemption?
The better question, however, is will he be humble enough to actually seek that redemption and thus be used for the greater good.
We shall wonder. Some shall pray. Praying, too, that no other broken person feels so confident of throwing that first stone…