By Pradyut Hande:
A few months ago, when the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) released a damning report against the beleaguered Former Cycling Champion, Lance Armstrong, I’d written an article expressing my solidarity with someone I’d always looked up to for more than just his astonishing feats in the sporting arena. The blistering report that highlighted the unimaginable lengths, to which Armstrong had gone to, in order to rise to the pinnacle of his sport, had shocked even his most ardent admirers. The fact that he chose to meet these “allegations” with an uncharacteristic calibrated wall of silence, instead of clearing his name, was perceived as a clear admission of his guilt. Although many others, like me, sincerely believed that their hero, who had battled such allegations throughout his illustrious career, was innocent of the multiple charges of doping brought against him. Somewhere; deep down, my faith in the man who had served as a major inspiration, although dented…still remained intact. Little did I know that Lance Armstrong is indeed what the USADA say he is; a drug tainted cheat, guilty of building a career on the decrepit foundations of lies, deceit, browbeating and bribery of unparalleled proportions.
The disgraced Cyclist who was subsequently banned for life and had all his competitive results since 1998 derecognised; for the first time, publicly admitted to doping in an interview with noted talk show host, Oprah Winfrey earlier this week. His admission has certainly come as an unpleasant surprise to many, whilst, the opposite end of the spectrum bears witness to his harshest critics who proudly wear the “we told you so” expression. Armstrong confessed to using banned performance enhancing substances like EPO during his time with the US Postal Service Cycling Team and indulging in elaborate cover ups in order to hoodwink the authorities. The fact that he didn’t appear to believe that he was committing major intransgressions and ruthlessly tarnishing the sanctity of the very sport he allegedly held dearest, is indicative of his non-existent value system. The fact that he believed he doped to “create a level playing field” is indicative of his alarming levels of delusion. The fact that he never batted an eyelid before bulldozing and defiantly running down anybody who dared to question his superlative feats and physical prowess, smacks of an all consuming arrogance that gradually eroded his ethical sense and responsibility.
Here was a fiercely ambitious and competitive individual who was willing to trade his heart, soul and mind for titles, prestige and honour. Here was an Athlete so driven by the insatiable appetite to succeed that his moral compass soon went so awry that there was no scope for course correction. Here was a Human Being who pretended to be someone he wasn’t. Lance Armstrong is a deeply flawed personality, just like all of us are. But the fact that he pretended to be perfect and above any sort of wrongdoing all these years, seemingly without any guilt gnawing away at him, comes as a shattering realisation.
He may have won the battle against the dreaded cancer and worked tirelessly for the betterment of those afflicted with the disease through his hugely successful foundation, but all those sandcastles of goodwill painstakingly built over time have now been washed away by the waves of utter disappointment, that continue to hit the shores of ignominy. Reputations are constructed over decades and yet, unfortunately, all it takes is a fleeting second to bring them tumbling down. Whatever reasons he may have had, Armstrong’s actions have brought great disrepute to not just cycling, but sport at large. He has let his fans, fellow competitors and nation down. But most significantly, Lance Armstrong has let himself down.
In the end, it was too good to be true. Armstrong’s legacy now lies in tatters at the altar of the truth. The man who thought he could get away with anything, stands in the shadows, unmasked…not a Superhero, but a fraud. He had embarked on the journey to build a successful career for himself, and he did succeed. He succeeded in “running the most sophisticated and professionalised doping programme that Sport has ever seen” and losing every last shred of respect that even his staunchest of backers possessed. For Lance Armstrong, it was never just about the bike.
About the author: The Writer is a Business student with a degree from NMIMS, Mumbai. He is presently working as a Senior Executive with a leading Public Relations firm in Mumbai. Through his writing; he attempts to address myriad issues of both domestic and global consequence, ranging from Business and Economics to Geopolitics…from Sports to Arts and Culture. He has over 200 publications to his credit in some of the leading national dailies and weekly magazines across the country. He is also a keen debater, munner, quizzer, painter and amateur freestyle rapper. His other interests include Sports, Music, Reading, Travelling and Social Entrepreneurship. For his latest postings,Â follow his blogÂ . To read his other posts,Â click here.Â