Is it OK to Like Lance Armstrong?
This week, federal investigators dropped doping charges against Lance Armstrong, ending countless efforts to legally implicate Armstrong in taking performance enhancing drugs, assisting him in winning a record 7 Tour de France titles.
To most Americans, Lance Armstrong is the most recognizable figure in the sport of cycling. Good, bad or indifferent, this is true. Members of the cycling community have their own varied opinions about who the #1 all time cyclist is, but Armstrong is a press hound. He’s a commodity, a commercial success with celebrity tendencies. Everyone recognizes him–in and out of the cycling community.
I’ve followed Lance’s career for roughly the last 12 years. I’ve read books by him and on him, read countless articles, and participated in 4 of his cancer fundraisers for the LIVESTRONG Foundation. I watched him race the Tour de France and duel with Jan Ullrich in the Alps. His story was always compelling. He was always exciting to watch. He was a god of sorts, and I was taken in.
But did I like him? Not really.
Lance has been described in so many ways: tenacious, determined, competitive, exacting, particular, specific, aggressive, demanding, arrogant, prickly, cocky and sometimes mean-spirited. Not very likable qualities. And while several of these personality aspects helped him win bike races and helped him beat cancer, I always got the impression he was the kind of guy who would create any advantage he could to optimize conditions for him to win.
I never wanted to believe that he doped. He’s never wavered in his claims of innocence. And the testing he submitted to for all those years seemed more than thorough–and at times, invasive. But I thought it would be foolish to believe otherwise. It was the climate. He was a top competitor. Of course he did! Everyone did. It’s not right and I don’t agree with it, but to think otherwise is wildly naive.
So while federal charges have been dropped, he’s still the same guy. I like what he’s done, but is he a nice person? Sheesh, I don’t know about that. I want to like him. He’s a great man who’s accomplished great things and has created a great charity that helps and inspires people with cancer. But he seems like kind of a jerk. If that’s true–it’s alright. We don’t have to like him. But we can appreciate his gifts, his talents, and his continuing mission to fight cancer. So what if he’s a little prickly? He’s Lance. He can be whatever he wants to be.