This week word spread that Lance Armstrong had made a long awaited confession regarding performance enhancing drugs during a taped interview with Oprah.
Which is no surprise. As a colleague pointed out, Oprah is one tough lady. She’s not going to give you airtime for anything less than the truth.
His full interview will air in a few days and I’m sure it will answer many questions. Did you Lance? For how long? Who did it involve? Why Lance?
I’m interested in the answers. His tale with its storied peaks and valleys would intrigue anyone, sports fan or casual observer.
But I want a lot more from Lance.
When I was a teenager I had big sport dreams. (I still do, they’re just different). For my birthday one year my Mom, a runner and cyclist, bought me Lance’s first book: It’s Not About the Bike.
I poured over its pages, re-read chapters and still finished it in mere days. I felt nauseous when I read about his bouts with chemo, grit my teeth when he described training on the Pyrénées in pouring rain when no one else would. I also liked the details about his family.
I cared about Lance.
One night a few years later I couldn’t sleep and so I pulled out the book again and started reading. I became so enthralled and fired up that I went to morning practice on no sleep. I think I even forgot to eat.
Up until fairly recently I didn’t believe he cheated. I think a lot of people didn’t because we didn’t want to. We accepted his story so organically that the suggestion it might be based on chemical elements was hard to absorb at first. But after time the evidence was just too much.
I hope eventually Lance will say he is sorry, and for more than the appeasement of our broken hearts.
His lie was so elaborate. We all wanted to believe in his ascension to history and he let it happen.
He also made a lot of money. Sure, he has raised hundreds of millions through Livestrong, but he sold the cancer survivor story and was paid handsomely for it.
He killed the bike. At least for the time being it is hard to watch a cycling event of any discipline without the slightest pause for thought. Pause to wonder about who rides clean.
More than anything I hope he apologizes for himself. The weight of such a dreadful scheme must be appalling. And then after some time spent self-loathing maybe he’ll do what I always thought he would and keep fighting. Not against the insurmountable evidence but to fix the sport that gave him so much.
And I don’t care why he does it. Someone who took a lease on our trust like that must be incredibly selfish. If he joins the anti-doping movement for the purpose of his own legacy, so be it.
I don’t believe in Lance anymore. At least what he used to stand for, but I do believe he can stand for something else. And I hope he does.
For me, an apology is just the start.