Friday, October 19, 2012

False Idols

Unlike millions of Americans, I'm not struggling with what to do with my Livestrong bracelet.  You see, I never owned one.  Even when the yellow wristbands were everywhere--on athletes, on celebrities, on both of the Presidential candidates in 2008--I held off on jumping on the bandwagon.  I just couldn't bring myself to endorse Lance Armstrong.

For some reason, I've always had nagging suspicions that what Armstrong achieved in cycling was not on the up-and-up.  The fact that cycling is third only to pro wrestling and professional bodybuilding in terms of steroid abuse was one reason.  Add to that, that Armstrong was a middle of the pack racer in the Tours de France in which he competed before he contracted testicular cancer.  How did he come back from the brink of death to suddenly become the greatest biker in the history of the sport?  Maybe it's the skeptic in me that didn't get caught up in the hoopla and the Nike commercials--where Armstrong was able to look into the camera and flat out lie about how all of the detractors claiming illegal doping were lying.

For me, the strongest voice of reason was the first American to win the Tour de France--Greg LeMond.  LeMond was always suspicious of Armstrong's achievements--saying there was no way Lance could come back that quickly--and become that dominant without 'roiding or blood switching or any of the other shortcuts he used.  "Team Livestrong" as I like to call them, did all they could to disparage LeMond--characterizing him as a bitter old man who was just jealous of Armstrong and who didn't want to be usurped as the "Greatest American Cyclist Ever".  Now, LeMond is fully justified--and his position as "America's Best" has been restored.  (I wish that Hank Aaron had been as adamant about cheating in the sport when Barry Bonds was breaking his home run record.  Although, no one considers Bonds the legitimate Home Run King anyway.)

I get a kick out of all the apologists now trying to justify their previous support of Armstrong.  "He's done so much for cancer victims!" and "He's an inspiration to millions!" they cry.  But let's be honest, if Lance had finished a career-best 15th in the Tour de France--does Livestrong and the Nike ads and the books ever happen?  Probably not.

So go ahead and toss that yellow bracelet in the garbage now that you are too ashamed to wear it.  As we learned with the downfall of Joe Paterno last year, idols usually have feet of clay.

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