Holding sports figures in high esteem (or hero status) is a dangerous and mis-guided trait in our society. [I can’t believe I’m saying this, but] Charles Barkley was right: sports figures play sports. They are NOT, nor should they be, role models, or heroes.
Lance survived cancer. That is a remarkable achievement. Based on the initial documented diagnosis, his survival was nothing short of a miracle. Lance used his fame and notoriety to raise awareness and a huge amount of money to battle the dreaded disease. For that, he deserves a lot of praise and credit.
Lance also won seven TdFs in a row. That is also remarkable. It appears now that he won by racing dirty. He juiced, he cheated, he deceived; call it whatever you want, he did not win ‘fair and square’-allegedly. So what does this all mean? Well, it depends on which side of the fence someone is on.
People that will forever link Lance to cycling AND cancer, will never say anything bad about him. They will not ‘abandon’ him.
People that for years maintained he was dirty will rejoice (and have been), and will be ecstatic that he was finally brought down. Which is what our society tends to do on a regular basis: we build up these HUGE hero figures only to tear them down.
My thoughts and feelings about all this are mixed. I am saddened that once again, the sport that I love is in the news for all the wrong reasons. I am saddened that the Olympic ideal of fair play seems to be disappearing in favor of the big money, endorsements, and commercial success. It also saddens me to think that all of the cancer survivors that believed in Lance’s successes may feel cheated, or somehow diminish their own survival and beating of cancer.
The bottom line is this: Sports ‘heroes’ are not ‘real’. Look at the ‘heroes’ in baseball, football, and cycling: magicians during competition, ‘losers’ in real life. There are other, true heroes in the world, who should get the attention they deserve: police officers that truly protect and serve; fire-fighters that rush in burning buildings (or World Trade Center towers about to collapse); single parents that juggle real life problems such as bills, school, etc.
By the way, I will still ride my bikes, and will still watch the Tour de France. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll go for a ride now…