Is It Really Cheating If You Don’t Get Caught?

Column: On the Mesa Facing North by Greg Kendall

Today, Lance Armstrong threw in the towel in his fight to clear his name in the ongoing Tour De France doping scandals.  Armstrong issued a statement that has been published in an earlier Los Alamos Daily Post story (see link below.)

In his statement, Armstrong discusses how “enough is enough” after dealing with claims that he cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning his seven Tours since 1999.

As I read through his statement, I kept looking for one sentence from Armstrong, “I never used performance enhancing drugs to help me win.” That sentence, nor anything like it can be found in Armstrong’s statement.

Armstrong does say in his statement that he passed every doping test given to him with “flying colors” during his Tour winning streak. 

Armstrong says that he “played by the rules THAT WERE IN PLACE [my emphasis] by UCI, WADA and USADA” when he raced.

Armstrong goes on to say that “the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that,” and that everyone he competed with knows who won those seven Tours.

I have admired Armstrong since first watching him win on TV in 1999. He became my hero. I have been a big road bike rider all of my life. 

I lived in Park City, Utah during some of the time when Armstrong was destroying his competition, winning tour after tour. Armstrong’s feats gave me the courage and will to tackle some of my own obstacles in my life, including defeating high mountain passes on my bicycle. 

He truly was a hero to me, having had overcome testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. 

He overcame normally lethal cancer to go on to be, arguably, the greatest athlete the world had ever seen. I thought about his exploits often and vowed to be like Lance when facing challenges.

Now I am stunned.  In possibly his final statement as a champion, Armstrong doesn’t say he never doped.  He says that he “played by the rules that were in place.” 

When I read between the lines of his statement, I am left with the following nagging thought. Armstrong must believe in his heart of hearts that it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught. 

If you look at all of the recent scandals in sports, in politics and in our economic system that are plaguing America today, Armstrong’s plight may be an indication of a new challenge that we must all overcome to regain greatness, this idea that it’s OK to cheat if you aren’t likely to get caught or if there is no way for anyone to detect it.

There may not be physical evidence that Armstrong was ever caught cheating, but this sport and its heroes are completely tarnished.

It’s clear that something has gone very, very wrong in the sport of cycling, join the party.

Image Source: Lance Armstrong (USA) at stage 17 of the 2009 Tour de France on the Col de la Colombière. July 22, 2009, Photo by McSmit and made available through the GNU Free Documentation License. 

To read the full Lance Armstrong statement, click HERE.

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