I remember twelve years ago watching the TV and seeing a tearful Hansie Cronje (South Africa’s ex cricket captain) being remorseful for his actions that ultimately led to his downfall. Hansie, like most of my South African followers and friends at the time, was looked up to as an inspirational leader. I even recollect meeting Hansie in person once, reflecting on how easy it was to have a casual chat to him, like another friend you were speaking to; a humble being evoking the very qualities we admired him for. No doubt he paid for what he did, but at that moment I began to wonder why such high profile sports people and celebrities always seem to fall on the path of temptation.
I found the events surrounding the whole doping scandal with Lance Armstrong rather intriguing. As most admirers and followers would have felt, it was hardly believable to conceive that such a tenacious athlete had been brought down to a point that he was no more recognizable as that hero who battled his way through cancer in the most unexpected circumstances. While thinking about what has happened in recent days, there are some points that bothered me.
First, during all the years this apparent doping had been happening, all those ex team mates who spoke against Lance Armstrong were certainly happy to ride into the night being willing participants in this ‘sophisticated’ doping program at the time. No one was forcing them; at worst they could have walked out and reported on the matter (and maybe lost a few endorsement dollars on the way for a moment)…oh but I can see some people saying now that cycling authorities and journalists were aware of the doping and they tried to report it. This brings me to my next problem…the cycling authorities. If they had been aware as they say they were, for some odd reason they felt powerless to do anything. So Lance Armstrong and team were bigger than the sport to actually have any prevention of this doping system happening in the first place. I think it’s a joke. I will tread on a slightly more controversial path and suggest there is a conspiracy theory behind this.
Let’s be honest, most sports today are so commercialized that losing on major Benjamins pouring in would be detrimental to the future of the sport. As far as I remember, the Tour De France was not exactly known as the most delightful event to follow (with all due respect to passionate cyclists I might add). Perhaps the authorities knew what was really going on behind closed doors in the Lance Armstrong world. And when they knew they realized that Lance was on a winning streak, they felt this outcome would really benefit the event, and the sport as well. It was perhaps more magnificent that a man who survived a fatal bout of cancer would become such a champion of a major cycling event. Humans tend to identify with such comebacks and relate to such a persona who can inspire. So this outcome meant the Tour De France was going to receive major recognition and sponsorship dollars that would make it one of the marquee events in global sport, not just in cycling. So what if Lance and team were a little naughty with a few blood transfusions, the sport’s health was more important!
Now once Lance Armstrong left, the sport was healthy but was bound to lose some flavour with followers. Perhaps the authorities felt opening another Pandora’s box in the form of a 1000 page report and the banning of a high profile athlete would add some more spice to the sport and perhaps bring the interest back. Yes, this would be a dangerous step for the authorities to take. Imagine if Lance Armstrong decided to sue them for degradation of character…that would have been another ball game to go through.
Which then makes it rather more intriguing that Lance would decide not to contest the accusations. I am not sure I really believe that he lost his motivation to fight them. There’s more to this story which perhaps we are not really being told about. Perhaps Lance knows something else and is waiting for the right moment to pounce and make it known!
Then there is the issue of what Lance Armstrong’s cancer foundation has done for the good of cancer research and cancer funding. The problem I have with this is what aspiring kids, who see this situation, must be thinking. They might be confused because here you have this once victorious athlete accused of cheating, yet at the same time he did much great for mankind. In a kid’s world each would be thinking how could you punish someone who has done so much good, that it should forgive the sins of that very person’s one ‘misdemeanor’. So what kids could possibly interpret is that as they grow up, even if they did something wrong career wise, what matters is whether all the good they did overshadows one of their weakest moments. This is a dangerous precedent that could be set for future generations. I say dangerous because the process taken to catch such people and punishing them has become prolonged, with many legal ramifications on both sides, and no one wants to take the first punch for fear of creating a damaging situation that is not beneficial in the long run.
It’s even more dangerous having seen a notable business person such as ex Mckinsey CEO Rajat Gupta getting sentenced, yet most people were asking for more leeway because of his good deeds done for non profit and charitable organizations during his time before his insider trading misdeeds. The problem really is that people of such stature come to a position where the lines of power and their influence become blurry, and this is where I feel they knowingly or unknowingly take advantage to the extent that people can no longer identify between what’s right and what’s wrong. Associated people find that being a whistle blower could finish their careers, or most have their reputations being damaged by powerful forces beyond their control.
If there’s one book I remember, it’s Lance Armstrong’s It’s not about the bike. Well, I would say it definitely was not about the bike; but if there’s one thing that people should reflect on and perhaps Mr Armstrong himself should have, then it’s this: it’s about the values and the real inspiration you become for people who need it the most, even if it means going through a long and painful building process of getting there!
This is Funjabi Guy wishing you a great weekend and beyond! Be safe. Till next Friday.
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Disclaimer: The opinions in this piece are solely those of the author and in no way reflect any person, institution or theory, nor is the author associated with any specific publication or institution. This article is purely for entertainment and insightful purposes.