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17 February 2013

Lance Armstrong controversy should not obscure the good

I, like many of you, watched the Lance Armstrong confession on the Oprah Winfrey Network and realized something: Lance Armstrong really is a raging jerk.

Lance was more committed to providing comedic fodder for late night television hosts than in providing his adoring fans with a heartfelt mea culpa. The interview was a spectacle by all accounts.

He never seemed close to being the least bit remorseful, and his demeanor most closely resembled that of a junkyard dog. The interview was surreal in its oddity. It genuinely seemed like he wanted everyone in America to know that he really didn’t care.

When a national celebrity goes onto a syndicated network to issue a long-awaited apology, the goal is to come off as welcoming and regretful. Armstrong came off about as welcoming as a sweater made from barbed wire.

Despite all of these character issues, the doping and the constant defamation of others who all turned out to be telling the truth, I found myself coming to another realization as the interview ended: I couldn’t care less.

Seriously, that’s not a hyperbole. I mean that in the truest sense of the statement. I honestly couldn’t care less whether or not Armstrong took steroids or not. In fact, I still kind of like the guy.

Now, let me elaborate on that statement. I’m not saying I’d want to have a beer with the guy. I feel like that would somehow turn into some weird chugging contest with Armstrong insisting that he beat me by at least half a beer and telling me how inferior I was to him.

But this man, like it or not, was the founder of the Livestrong Foundation and was an inspiration to millions worldwide who have been afflicted with cancer. I still find that to be his greatest accomplishment.

Of the past 17 Tour De France winners, only three have gone their entire careers without ever testing positive, being found guilty of, or admitting to using steroids.
But really, who can blame these guys? They are being asked to ride a bike through roughly 2,000 miles of hills, mountains and hairpin turns.

If someone asked me to ride my bike two miles, the anxiety alone would probably cause me to faint. Yet for some reason, as sports fans, we become shocked each time one turns up a positive test result.

I’m not even close to being a casual fan of cycling so for many in the cycling community who are looking at this from purely a sporting perspective, I can understand your outrage and hatred at the jerk from Texas who still seems to struggle to understand he was wrong.

But in light of all of those numbers I just presented, let me present just one more: 470 million.

That is roughly the amount in U.S. dollars that the Livestrong Charity has raised to date for cancer research and support programs. Given all of these facts, I can almost understand why Lance lied for so long.

The harsh reality, as I see it, is that if he had admitted to doping from the start, none of this progress would have been possible. I understand the appeal, beyond the egotistical standpoint, in elevating himself to atmospheric heights. He almost had to. That’s what got people interested. It’s what got people to donate for cancer research.

I’m not saying what he did was right. He cheated his sport and his peers, and for that he should be criticized. But it seems like every day people are trying to ignore the good this man has accomplished.

Many have taken off their Livestrong bracelets. Others have even gone so far as to ask for their donations back, saying that they were duped by this false idol in a yellow jersey they had come to worship.

Regardless of what anyone’s reason for donating to Livestrong was, the reality of the situation is their money went toward fighting cancer.

I think that cause is slightly more noble than a bunch of men in tights riding bicycles.

Robert Pursell is a senior majoring in journalism.