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Lance, I thought I knew ya'

January 20, 2013|Bill Kohler

I don’t know in whom I am more disappointed, me or Lance.

In case you missed it, Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France and all-around superhuman athlete and hero to many, admitted to doping to improve his performance during his cycling career and running a sophisticated bullying operation to keep it from the public’s eye.

In case you also missed this, I believed in him until the bitter end.

You know what they say about fooling people more than once. Who’s the foolish one now that Lance admitted that he really was cheating in a sport that reeks of cheats? 

And, I feel even more foolish after so many baseball players have come out and acknowledged they used steroids and human growth hormones during the 1990s and early 2000s.

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Many of us are wearing the fool’s crown, I guess.

But who could blame us really — really — for not believing in the guy?

First, the guy survived cancer. He not only survived, but he beat it. I mean he kicked it right in the tires and kept pedaling.

As Cuba Gooding’s character said in “Jerry Maguire,” “Man, I dig that about you Jerry.”

Not a soul among us older than 18 doesn’t know at least one person who battled cancer. And none of them are racing in the Pyrenees against the world’s best.

Regardless of what has come since, Armstrong is to be admired for his spirit and determination.

His Livestrong foundation has done wonders and he has served as an ambassador of courage and never quitting, no matter the odds.

Secondly, the guy never failed a drug test. Anyone who knows anything about the tests knows that beating them more than once is nothing short of a miracle. Beating them for years and years and years?

Remarkable, I thought.

Thirdly, very few people with credibility or who didn’t have axes to grind were speaking out until the past year.

Granted, in the giant scheme of things, does cheating in a fringe sport like cycling really matter that much? No.

Do most of the cyclists cheat in some form or another? Probably.

Is the fact that Lance was still a world-class cyclist for all those years still impressive? Of course.

But here’s what matters.

He lied.

Repeatedly.

Over and over.

And then he bullied people into living the lies. And hiding the lies.

And then he lied some more.

And millions of people believed him and trusted him.

People like me and people like you.

I feel a little ashamed.

Perhaps it was because I wanted to believe him. I wanted to trust him. No way could a guy beat the testers for all those years. He’s just an amazing human specimen with a bigger heart and larger lungs than the rest of us.

He was a great guy for whom all of us could root.

Right?

Wrong.

He was horribly wrong, and I can’t shake the feeling that I once really looked up to te guy and admired him.

After watching portions of the interview with Oprah Thursday, I feel confident that all parties — me and Lance, and I suppose Oprah and her millions, too  — will move on, but the past and future of all of our relationships are a bit tarnished and irrevocably broken.

Hopefully, Lance will willingly — and with the same determination that made him a hero — make amends with his past and continue his apology tour for as long as it takes for him to look all the people in the eye whose lives he damaged and careers he ruined.

I doubt that ride will ever end for him.

For myself and millions of others, the ride won’t last as long, but it might serve as reminder to be honest with ourselves and our expectations and keep them in perspective. 

I’ve always been a trusting kind of person, one to take people at their word. Now, I think I will dig a little deeper before I buy into the 60 homers after age 35, or the Cy Youngs at age 38, or the Wimbledons at age 17, or the seven Tour de France titles.

Share your thoughts on Armstrong at www.herald-mail.com. Log on to the opinion section and click on this column.

Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Herald-Mail. Reach him at billk@herald-mail.com.

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