Armstrong’s fame is no reason to look other way

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has recently resurrected its pending speculation that seven-time Tour de France victor Lance Armstrong has been using performance-enhancing drugs, an illegal yet not uncommon practice to the world’s major athletes. Barry Bonds, who holds the Major League Baseball home run record with 762, was indicted of perjury and obstruction of justice regarding his use of anabolic steroids, and East German Olympic swimmers Kornelia Ender, Barbara Krause and Carola Nitschke admitted to also using anabolic steroids and injections of testosterone.

The USADA has ceased its efforts to collaborate with Armstrong despite a history of clean drug tests, which he cites as his rationale for refusing to take more. Fans appear to be living vicariously through the abrasiveness of the USADA’s decision to strip Armstrong of his titles and implement a lifetime ban. However unappealing and distasteful as this punishment may manifest into the public’s mind, law enthusiasts may show their disdain with a whining “rules are rules!”

Refusing to acknowledge Armstrong’s brave win over testicular cancer and subsequent cycling achievements would be disingenuous, but neglecting impartiality would be just as naive. Frankly, I praise the efforts of what the public is artlessly distancing itself from — equality. Perhaps the word has become liberal in its seemingly perpetual use, but it is rarely used apathetically.

Regardless of context, equality comes with a level playing field; a homogeneous opportunity for each person involved where the pecking order remains confined solely to animals. The idea of a level playing field is not only applicable in the competitor-to-competitor sense but also in the methods that this equality is enforced. Armstrong allegedly used an unfair advantage, and the USADA acknowledges this accordingly, treating his actions proportionately to that of any other cyclist.

There is an uneasy trend in history where money and fame are simply red herrings that cause gullible remoteness between the general perceptions of achievements and the process in which those achievements are accomplished. Yet any chemist would agree that we are simply diluting the illegality associated with anyone famous or wealthy enough.

There must be justness and honor shown by those executing the words of the law, privileged or underprivileged. Otherwise we form a dangerous social hierarchy, exemplifying tolerance in immunities for the glorified and admired. So then if the doping allegations are confirmed, would we call Armstrong a cheat or continue to praise him for his successes nonetheless?

And then we come to everybody’s most feared situation: the hypothetical one. What if Lance Armstrong admitted that he had used performance-enhancing drugs? I can loosely relate the answer to London-based Willis Group Holdings obtaining the name rights to Chicago’s Sears Tower. Although the name has legally changed, Chicagoans and visitors still commonly refer to the building as the Sears Tower. I have only scarce doubt that the case with Armstrong would be any different; you can strip him of his titles, but everybody saw who won those races.

It comes down to setting aside dignity and reciprocating the faith millions of fans have devoted. It’s a blind fall backward, but everybody yearns for the powerful to become vulnerable … that whole level playing field thing I was talking about.

Indeed Armstrong has expressed his desire for peace and departure from the USADA’s doping charges, rather hoping to focus on his life with his family and cancer charity foundation. Still, many (perhaps including myself) have not received appropriate closure. At second glance, appropriate seems misleading; I would like to reiterate with the word “honorable.” Something just seems … unsportsmanlike about not recognizing the hundreds upon hundreds of Armstrong’s competitors whom he may have consciously deceived. Not to mention the fans across the world that supported Armstrong, expecting almost for granted that an athlete of such merit would play fair.

In fact, I have strong faith in the morale of Armstrong supporters almost to say that an honorable admission or at least clarification of doping claims would not break him or his prestige in their perspectives. We do not always have to look down upon those who have faulted; we must stick around to evaluate their ride back up.

_Adam is a junior in ACES. He can be reached at [email protected]_