BOSTON (CBS) – The curtain has fallen. The magic show revealed. The last semblance of cycling hope stands in front of a silent audience in shame.
To many, it’s no surprise that Lance Armstrong has “given up” the fight against his accusers. Having won seven Tour De France Titles — all of which the second and third place riders were proven dopers — the story simply seemed too good to be true. Although Armstrong has not made a clear admission to doping, the cruel nature of history will not pay attention to detail.
Armstrong will forever be considered one thing and one thing only: a cheat. Now the questions simply remains, how fair is the label which we choose? Was there something bigger at play? Something that didn’t just pertain to bike racing? Something that loomed over all of sports and continues to until this day?
To many Americans, cycling isn’t exactly the Super Bowl or World Series; not even close. However, the sport, now more than ever, shares a common cloud with some of our greatest pastimes: performance enhancing drugs.
Is this pure coincidence or are athletes like Armstrong, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez a product of an era that was simply too powerful to combat? The lights were too bright, the competition too fierce and drugs, although frowned upon, were an accepted part of the inner circle.
Instead of demonizing these athletes, it’s simply time to classify an era and move on. Sure, Lance Armstrong may have needed some additional help to climb the mountains of France but believe me, so did the majority of the riders. If every single competitor who came close to taking Armstrong’s title was accused of doping, then the playing field was clearly even. It does not make the situation right, but the fact that Lance was competing against cyclists who were on par with his doping tactics makes him a product of culture, not a scapegoat of sport.
There’s something to myth. There’s something to watching a magic show and believing in what you see. As soon as the curtain came down, we all fell duped, but while the show was happening, we loved every moment. Armstrong, like many athletes of his time, was the magician. He remained within the inner circles, the secret society, of sport that we were not privy to. Now that the doors have opened, our idealized thoughts on what an “athlete should be” have simply killed the show.
The facts are that Lance Armstrong accomplished the impossible, whether on drugs or not, by combating a life-threatening disease and dominating one of the toughest events in all of sport. The story itself is one to be admired and one to be looked up to.
It’s unfortunate that because of our need to scapegoat that neither will happen.
Follow Mark Feldman on Twitter @mfsports21