Original Post: January 14, 2013
Here we go again.
Another high-profile athlete, after years of vehement denials, confesses to allegations of cheating.
Why has one of the world’s most famous athletes decided that “now” is the time to come clean?
Cycling legend Lance Armstrong confessed during an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he did use performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last year, and was banned for life from competition, after a finding by U.S. officials that he cheated throughout his career.
The investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency concluded that he masterminded a doping regimen for his U.S. Postal Service team. The report alleged that rules violations included the use of steroids, Human Growth Hormone, and blood-doping products designed to give Armstrong and his racing team a competitive advantage in the grueling endurance sport.
ESPN reported last June that it had obtained a letter that USADA sent to Lance Armstrong outlining it’s charges against him. In that letter dated June 12, 2012, USADA stated “numerous riders, team personnel and others will testify” they either saw Armstrong dope or heard him tell them he used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone from 1996 to 2005.
Armstrong won the Tour de France every year from 1999 to 2005.
In calling for the lifetime sanctions against Armstrong, USADA chief executive Travis Tygert labeled the violations “The most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”.
For years, Armstrong publicly denied it all.
Even after USADA released its 200-page, detailed report that included statements from 11 former teammates who testified again Armstrong, he maintained his innocence, releasing an indignant denial on his website that read in part:
“These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation… These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity… USADA’s malice, its methods, its star-chamber practices, and its decision to punish first and adjudicate later all are at odds with our ideals of fairness and fair play.”
“I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one. That USADA ignores this fundamental distinction and charges me instead of the admitted dopers says far more about USADA, its lack of fairness and this vendetta than it does about my guilt or innocence. Any fair consideration of these allegations has and will continue to vindicate me.”
And now, apparently, he’s going to tell us the accusations were accurate all along.
What a surprise.
And why would he come clean now and admit to cheating his sport, after lying about it all these years? Denials, by the way, that insulted our intelligence?
It’s because he has no real alternative, and potentially he has something to gain.
The Livestrong Foundation has been irreparably harmed. His legacy as an inspirational cancer survivor beating the odds through sheer force of will and determination, has been shattered.
A lifetime competition ban is in place. Armstrong is said to want to compete again.
And, beyond that, there simply is no other way he can try to move on with a productive life.
I’m all for accountability and late is better than never. But, there seem to be only two reasons that public figures confess to wrong-doing after initially lying to us.
Either the weight of evidence is so overpowering that they have no choice, or because they have something to gain from it.
Pete Rose lied about gambling in baseball.
Why did he finally confess?
To help sell a book.
Why did Mark McGwire finally admit to using performance-enhancing drugs while playing baseball?
So that he could return to the sport as a batting coach and not have the issue hanging over him.
And when these athletes (and other public figures) finally get around to admitting their transgressions, there are some that applaud them for it.
I look at the motive.
We all make mistakes — some bigger than others.
I’ve certainly made my share.
Admitting to them when they occur is the way to move on.
We’re generally a pretty forgiving people if the apology is sincere and immediate. But, when public figures wait days and then release a statement that sounds like it was written by a public relations firm, it’s not as easily forgiven.
Worse yet, is when people lie. Even though we all hear that the lie becomes the bigger story than the original mistake in judgment, we keep seeing people take the denial route.
In the case of public figures, it’s hubris and arrogance in believing they can deceive the public.
And once exposed, when after years of denials the truth finally comes out, it’s difficult not to be cynical when the public figure finally admits the accusations were true.
In the case of Lance Armstrong, those denials long were aimed at a public that believed in him —- a public that was invested in supporting him emotionally and with the many millions of dollars donated to his charity.
And now the public is to hear a “sincere” apology?
How can people who feel cheated by Lance Armstrong, view whatever he has to say now, no matter how emotionally he might say it, as being anything more than a self-serving effort to rehabilitate his reputation?
It would be refreshing to see an athlete come clean and issue a sincere apology —- not because the timing was right, but simply because it was the right thing to do.
Founder & Executive Director
Chuck Wilson is an award-winning host, interviewer, and commentator. He was an original host on ESPN Radio and was with the network for close to 17-years. In 2007, Wilson was named one of the 100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America by the Institute for International Sport. He is the founder of Even Field.