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Liar, Liar, Lance on Fire: The Downfall of Lance Armstrong & The Loss of Faith in Heroes

Although Lance Armstrong “came clean” to Oprah Winfrey earlier this month, his doping scandal continues to be on-going. On January 29, it was announced that the International Cycling Union (UCI) will disband a commission it set up to review the union’s handling of the Lance Armstrong doping case. Instead, UCI, with the help of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), will begin a truth and reconciliation campaign in an effort to compel the cycling committee forward past and eradicate the practice of doping. 

Oprah: For 13 years you didn’t just deny it, you brazenly and defiantly denied everything you just admitted just now. So why now admit it?

Armstrong: That is the best question. It’s the most logical question. I don’t know that I have a great answer. I will start my answer by saying that this is too late. It’s too late for probably most people, and that’s my fault. I viewed this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times, and as you said, it wasn’t as if I just said no and I moved off it.
But for some people, ourselves included, the continual presence of new and revamped doping allegations in almost every professional sport is met with apathy, and placed in the same category as the other cheating scandals that seem to onslaught us every time we turn on the news. In addition to Lance Armstrong, countless other athletes have been accused of doping, including Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa — and that’s just in cycling and baseball!  But the awful truth is that athletes aren’t the only ones who cheat. Politicians, celebrities, bankers, doctors, every-day, low-key people, even college students like us: everyone cheats. Whether it’s a new and well publicized sex scandal clouding the tabloid magazines in the check-out aisle, a student cheating on an exam, or a well-to-do businessman skimming off the top to pad his own ever-growing bank account, our society is littered with ne’er-do-wells that cheat every day. 

Oprah: Did you feel in any way that you were cheating? You did not feel you were cheating taking banned drugs?

Armstrong: At the time, no. I kept hearing I’m a drug cheat, I’m a cheat, I’m a cheater. I went in and just looked up the definition of cheat and the definition of cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe that they don’t have. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.
Who do so many people cheat today? The reason is simple: because we let them. Even if a cheater gets caught, the probability that they will be punished is variable. Despite what we learned when growing up, not all bad guys get caught and punished. With the dispute over his last foray into doping (Armstrong says 2005, USADA says 2009) meaning the statute of limitations may have run out on pressing criminal charges, Lance Armstrong is not going to jail. 

Oprah: Was it a big deal to you, did it feel wrong?

Armstrong: No. Scary.

Oprah: It did not even feel wrong?

Armstrong: No. Even scarier.

Oprah: Did you feel bad about it?

Armstrong: No. The scariest.

Yes, he did step down as CEO of Livestrong a had his seven Tour de France titles revoked, and has been publicly criticized, but that is a pretty light punishment for someone who broke the law, wrongfully sued and cost numerous people their jobs, and would most likely do it all over again in the name of winning. We are hoping that other idols we have in sports, in the media, in music, and in the world are as morally good as we think they are. Maybe we need to adjust our expectations to the “playing field” where, according to Armstrong, everyone is on drugs, but we would like to believe in a better place than that. 

Oprah: Was it humanly possible to win the Tour de France without doping, seven times?

Armstrong: Not in my opinion. that generation. I didn’t invent the culture, but I didn’t try to stop the culture.

To top it all of, Armstrong, like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and even Tiger Woods who notoriously cheated on his ex-wife, still has thousands of loyal fans willing to overlook his rule-breaking escapades. Do we punish politicians for cheating on their spouses or for buying votes? Do we punish financiers for fraudulently build their fortunes? And exactly how many students who cheat on exams make it to Honor Council? More often than not, we don’t punish them and they don’t get caught every time. Unfortunately the talents that made our favorite celebrities famous are also the reasons we care about what happens in their locker rooms, backstage, and even in the private company of their families. We recognize that being curious about what happens in our idols’ bedrooms is intrusive and that we don’t know the extreme pressures of a professional cycling career. However, we wish we could depend on our role models to be moral role models as well as talented ones. 

The most “shocking” part of Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace is that his story is not unique. It is sensationalized, but Armstrong is not the only cyclist (let alone the only athlete) to use performance-enhancing drugs, and until we change the way our society views people who lie and cheat in order to get ahead, he certainly won’t be the last. 
Photos courtesy of The New York Times
I'm a history major here at Conn and in addition to being a writer for Her Campus,  I am also a SISTER mentor, meaning that I do fun activities with local middle school girls twice a week! This semester I am applying to PICA, a certificate program in public policy and community action, and designing a project around how after-school programs can counteract inequalities within the public education system. In addition to being socially active, I love hanging out with my friends, being silly, reading books, and drinking tea! My current obsessions include: Passion Pit, the Wombats, Downton Abbey, and pretending to be a secret agent when watching Covert Affairs.
I am a junior and a Campus Correspondent for Connecticut College! I am majoring in American Studies and a PICA scholar. I was a High School Ambassador for HerCampus in 2010-2011 and a contibuting writer 2011-2012. I love writing, editing, and social media. This fall, I am a Student Coordinator for the Women's Center, a photographer for College Relations, and am also a member of SafetyNet. When I'm not writing, I love being outside and enjoy many many different types of music. I also enjoy shopping at the Container Store, sharpie markers, thunderstorms, onesies, Gilmore Girls, The Newsroom, New Girl, 60 Minutes, and The West Wing. 
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