How soon before Lance Armstrong’s world completely crumbles? One day, can you imagine him apologizing to the world for cheating in cycling competitions and relinquishing his seven Tour de France medals? Can you imagine him asking his fans for forgiveness and then embarking on a global campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs? Can you imagine forgiving him for fooling us all these years that he was a naturally gifted super-athlete?
I was reminded of his situation this morning when the weekly email newsletter from Livestrong.com, the brand for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, arrived in my inbox. When I saw the email, my immediate thought was of all the Armstrongs out there (there are about 150,000 apparently), he is about the only one I would not want to be right now.
Apparently, as we have come to find out, it was more than Lance Armstrong’s teammates that helped him on seven occasions win cycling’s greatest test — the Tour de France.
While his competitors, detractors and officials of the world cycling community have suspected and charged Mr. Armstrong with using performance-enhancing drugs over the years, he hasn’t been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. At least not until just recently when former teammate and confessed cheater Tyler Hamilton apparently testified before a grand jury, and later on 60 Minutes, that he witnessed Armstrong cheating at his sport on numerous occasions.
Through it all, Armstrong remains defiant. He vehemently proclaims his innocence, time after time, and in the meantime generates hundreds of millions of dollars in donations for cancer through his Lance Armstrong Foundation.
There was a time when I thought it must be pretty cool to be Lance Armstrong. Cancer survivor. Confident but not arrogant. Married a rock star. Super-athlete. A great American. And how about the name?
Is there a cooler first name than Lance? And how about the definition of the word, lance – a pole weapon or spear designed to be used by a mounted warrior. How can you top that? You can, but only if you were Sir Lancelot from King Arthur’s legend. But Lance Armstrong is a real person.
There’s the last name too – Armstrong. While there have been, and are, lots of Armstrongs out there, there are only a handful that truly made their mark on society and culture.
Louis Armstrong comes to mind. Satchmo’s reputation is still in good standing as we approach the 40th year of his passing. And about a year ago, a Space Foundation survey ranked former astronaut Neil Armstrong as the number one most popular space hero. Nearly 42 years after becoming the first human to walk on the moon, Armstrong’s reputation is as strong as ever.
Though not in the same league as Louis or Neil, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day is certainly leaving his mark on the music world. Yes, he got busted a few years ago for DUI, and while he isn’t known for philanthropy, his recent work with Habitat for Humanity counts for something.
Great first name. Great last name. And Livestrong is a great brand name of the Lance Armstrong Foundation created by Lance, the cancer survivor. Through his foundation, he has raised close to a half-billion dollars in the name of cancer research.
But that was then.
Today, Lance’s reputation is hanging by a thread. The Feds aren’t going to let up on him. And at least four former teammates have testified against him. Grand Jury testimony will win out.
If I were Lance, I know what I would do to preserve what is left of my reputation. Repeated denials would not be the strategy.