My last and final post about Lance Armstrong

January 18, 2013

As Jim Morrison sang, this is the end. The last post I will ever write about Lance Armstrong, the fallen hero of mine. Almost two years ago, I wrote a post offering my suggestions for how Armstrong could preserve his reputation and avoid the train wreck played out last night in Oprah’s confessional. It was prophetic. I argued at the time that for Lance, there was no PR magic, no spin, no narrative that could save his ass in the face of an investigation that would ultimately find the truth — that he lied, he cheated, and he masterminded and perpetrated one of the greatest frauds in sports history.

Instead, I wrote that the only way Armstrong could redeem himself was to tell the truth. Come clean. Call a press conference, tell all, and then make a bold pledge. Promise to invest all his money, might, and political capital in a new venture, one devoted exclusively to ridding sports of drugs.

It would have been a brilliant, unexpected move. One that would have left his critics flat-footed, and provided him an escape value to get on with this life. What he could have, should have done is dedicated the past few years and the rest of this life to working with sports officials, sharing with them all he had learned from cheating, while drawing other athletes into the bright light of fair play.

The plan also would have saved his reputation, extended his stage, and averted looming financial and legal disaster. Lance will spend years in the courtroom and in the end, stand bankrupt to the world. It could have been averted. He should have given it all away in pursuit of clean sport. By doing so, he would have left nothing to the vultures. Oh, they would still have sued, but the money would be safe and sound, working for good instead of returned to insurance companies or eye shade manufacturers or even the very cycling federations that turned a blind eye and enabled the cheat.

The plan would have changed up the narrative of Lance’s own life story and given him the proverbial second act, extending olive branches to his victims by naming the institute after LeMond, Andreu, O’Reilly, or any of the others he waged war against. I’d find it hard to imagine the U.S. Postal Service suing Lance to recover money he donated and put to work cleaning up sport. But I do fully believe it will come after him to reclaim its sponsorship dollars in return for dropping federal fraud charges.

This could have been his great next chapter read to a forgiving American public. The Milken of sport. Instead, Lance is more likely to become Pete Rose, reduced to a casino greeter working for tips, a backdrop for gamblers’ photo ops. All because of a lack of contrition and redemption — an inability to find his way — once out of the saddle and adrift in the real world.

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