Walter White, the main character on the hit show Breaking Bad, when asked by his wife if he and his family were in danger, was famously quoted as saying, “I am the one who knocks.”
Unfazed by the power and glory of being the best at what they do, Walter White and Lance Armstrong share something in common; in their pursuit of perfection, both men lost sight of dignity, integrity, and humanity. Willing to do whatever it takes to be better than their competition, White and Armstrong never realized that the truth would one day catch up to all of their lies.
Comparing Lance Armstrong to a TV character may be hard for some to understand, but Armstrong’s incapability to believe that his cheating would catch up with him, and his deceitfulness towards his fellow conspirators and fans across the world, makes me believe he really did think he was the one who knocked, when in fact this whole time the door has been wide open.
Once upon a time, a man by the name of Lance Armstrong captivated the hearts of people all over the world with his incredible story from testicular cancer survivor to Tour de France winner. Six more Tour de France titles later, millions of dollars richer, and now a former cancer research figurehead, Lance Armstrong’s empire has fallen faster than anyone could’ve ever imagined.
After years of speculation that Armstrong was a major player in professional cycling’s doping scandals, Armstrong was banned from professional cycling for life after being found guilty of failing several drug tests, partaking in a doping ring, and strongly encouraging his teammates and fellow riders to dope and deny allegations of any wrongdoing.
For many years, it was believed Armstrong had not only been doping, but was the head of an intricate doping ring that included teammates and doctors attempting to fool drug tests and professional cycling. After years in the dark, many of Armstrong’s teammates came out and admitted to doping, partaking in the doping ring headed by Armstrong. Even after specific testimonies and confessions, Armstrong continued to deny that he had partaken in any illegal activity during his cycling career. Even amid harsh allegations, Armstrong’s legacy continued to grow while becoming a figurehead for cancer research and starting his own foundation.
Finally, after all the allegations and denial, Armstrong’s career burned to ashes when it was announced his seven Tour de France titles would be stripped away and he would be banned for life from professional cycling. All of his endorsements were terminated, and he was forced to step down as chairman of his foundation. It seemed as if finally, justice had been served.
After a few months in the dark, Lance Armstrong has decided to go public and give his first interview since it was announced he would be banned for life from the sport he once dominated. On January 17th, Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey will be aired, and I can’t help but think how pathetic he’ll look when he falls in the face of the most important court; the court of public opinion.
A man who has built his image around survival of the fittest, and standing up to the powers of evil, Armstrong has not only lied to us all, but the way in which he has done it is what startles me. For so long, Armstrong was thought to be the “different” sports star; the one with a heart and understanding of what it means to rise from nothing to something. He wasn’t just an amazing cyclist; he was an American hero. From his near death experiences through cancer, to standing at the top of the podium as a Tour de France winner, the American people looked up to Armstrong as a symbol of courage and bravery. Lance Armstrong stood for everything we dream in someone, so we all thought.
For someone who came so close to death, you would think Armstrong would’ve understood not only the health risks of doping, but the lack of integrity one must have inside them to continuously cheat his way through life. For someone who came so close to accomplishing so little in life, one must wonder how he could’ve looked himself in the mirror knowing his entire career was a cheat.
I’ve always wondered how humans can turn so evil. We’re all born into this world as innocence souls that have the will to choose our own paths in life. Certainly, influences make a large impact on how we perceive the world, but ultimately you, and only you, can choose which path you wish to take in life. Our choices define us. Lance Armstrong didn’t choose to be diagnosed with cancer, but he chose to fight it. Maybe he was influenced by the competition that stood in front of him, but Armstrong never had to dope; he chose to dope.
What makes us evil? Is it our want for more than we need? Is it our desire to always be the best, no matter what it takes? If we’re all born as good people, why do so many of us lose sight of what is good and what is evil? Is man’s desire for perfection his greatest downfall?
Lance Armstrong will face the biggest test of his life this week when he gives his public apology to the entire world, and attempts to regain the stature that made him a Titan once before. Even if he admits to all of his wrongdoings, will that change what he has done? He’s been throwing spitballs at the American people for years, and we’ve been eating them up for so long. He’s been loved, cherished, adored, and now tarnished by the public opinion. Does an apology even matter? So what, he tells the world he’s sorry. We’re supposed to forgive him and pretend like it never happened? We’re supposed to forget that he cheated us all out of our human nature to love and root for the underdog. I just don’t see that as a possibility, and I hope none of you do either.
Last week, the baseball writers didn’t elect any new members to the Hall of Fame for the first time since 1996. A year filled with so many big names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa, yet no one came close to the 75% threshold needed to be elected. Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa, all associated with the Steroid Era in baseball, all received less than 40% of votes, a number likely to continue to fall as the years go on. The Steroid Era has ended, but in the eyes of American sports fans, cheating is still prioritized over the idea that it was an acceptable measure during that time period. Hopefully this trend never changes. The sports world needs to be reminded that there are good people out there who make the right choices when no one is looking.
The other day I was thinking about this idea of cheating as I was listening to analysts discuss their thoughts on the hall of fame voting. During the Steroid Era, Major League Baseball didn’t test for Performance Enhancing Drugs, an argument proponents will say is the reason why we should look past these players steroid usage. But I can’t help but think the same thing I think about Armstrong now; just because they didn’t test for it doesn’t mean it’s right. What’s sad about this whole situation is like Armstrong, these players were great without the performance enhancing drugs, they just couldn’t settle with being great; they wanted to be the best. They wanted something they knew they could never achieve on their own, and enlisted the help of something they knew could transform themselves into the “best.” In their pursuit to be the best, they lost sight of what made them great. Their ruthlessness will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
When Armstrong’s interview goes on air this week, he’ll put on his puppy face and admit what he has done wrong. He’ll look the camera in the eye, shed a couple tears, and tell the world he let you all down. He’ll say he led you all to believe he is Superman, when really he is nothing. He’ll ask you for his forgiveness, and many will accept it. But before you decide to forgive Armstrong for all he has done wrong, I ask you to do one simple thing. Before you let Armstrong guilt you into thinking he’s sorry for what he has done, look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you’d be proud tell your kid you cheated your way to the top of the mountain. Ask yourself if being the best is worth destroying everything; if the pursuit of perfection is worth living a lie.
When Lance Armstrong sits on his deathbed one day, he’s going to be an old man filled with regret. He’ll come to realize that you can cheat a lot of things in life, but you can’t cheat death, and you can’t cheat the legacy that carries on with you long after you’re gone.
When the camera turns on, and the lights come back on him for one last time, Lance Armstrong will face his worst enemy: himself. His confession may give us the sad relief we’ve long awaited to hear, but hopefully, the scars of his admission will remain present in the minds of people long after we stop hearing stories of “Live Strong.”