Bigger Problems Than Lance

Unless you studiously and compulsively avoid national news you know that cycling hero and cancer awareness advocate Lance Armstrong cheated. Before I get to the implications for parenting (and you may be wondering what on earth Lance’s doping has to do with parenting) let me get a few things out of the way.
Armstrong is in a long line of “sports cheaters”. Pick your sport: baseball (Mark McGuire), football (Bill Belichick), Gymnastics (Chinese Women Olympics 2008), swimming (Women’s East Germany Olympic team 1976), track (Ben Johnson), skating (Tonya Harding), soccer (Maradona), cycling (Landis) – the list would fill an entire book. I am NOT justifying what he did, I am merely observing the context in which he did it.
Armstrong cheated. Armstrong also had testicular cancer, abdominal cancer and brain cancer. He bounced back further, trained harder, and worked more intensely than virtually any other cyclist. Doping or no doping his work ethic and intensity are inspiring. The cycling association, which produced a pretty condemning report, also hunted him with a rabid dog intensity that frankly doesn’t make sense. In destroying him they also destroyed the sport for years to come. Don’t believe me? Take a poll of the people sitting near you (I have done this several times). Ask them to name a cyclist besides Lance Armstrong. Ask them to name a bike race beside the Tour de’ France. 90% of people can’t do either. In America, Lance Armstrong is Cycling. Lance’s charge back from cancer to competitive cycling put cycling in America on the map. Kick Lance off the map, and you can kick biking off the map. Three of my kids traveled to France to watch Lance, not the Tour. No Lance, and they wouldn’t have gone.
Cancer? I will continue to confidently wear my Livestrong wrist band – I have two family members who are cancer survivors and we have benefited from, and been inspired by both Lance Armstrong and the Livestrong Foundation.
Okay, how does this apply to parenting. Should you tell your kids: Now, children, Lance cheated. See what happens when you cheat? You get caught and then punished. So, are there any questions? As a matter of fact there are. Big ones.
Mommy and Daddy, did you think Lance was cheating?
We all knew Lance was cheating, we just didn’t want to admit it. The story was too good to be true. (If it is too good to be true, it isn’t). And don’t tell me you are going to strip him of his 7 Tour wins and give them to the runner up, who was just seconds behind him. Oh yeah, I’m quite sure that the cyclists and teams in second and third place were absolutely clean. If you believe that you probably also believe NFL lineman are not using steroids. And that Roger Clemens didn’t dope.
This brings us to the bigger problem: We don’t really want to know. We exhibit, as a culture, Collective, Comprehensive, All-Inclusive Denial. We simply don’t want to know. We don’t want to know that our economy is headed off a fiscal cliff. We don’t want to know that we are going to have to cut back on our spending. We don’t want to know that taxes have to go up. We don’t want to know that we can’t afford the “very best” medical care. We don’t want to know that American Education is slipping. We don’t want to know about our credit card debit. We want to believe that we are exceptional. That life’s rules don’t apply to us. Worse, we want to believe that you can have it all, and you don’t really have to work for it. We seek the short cut. The quick fix. The pill to solve it. The dope.
I’ll tell you what we can learn from Lance Armstrong: if you believe, if you hope, if you work hard, if you sacrifice, you can came back from terminal illness. Lance did it. America can do it too. Belief. Hope. Hard work. Sacrifice. It starts with us and our kids. Take short-cuts and you ruin it all.

One Response to Bigger Problems Than Lance

    Mike says:

    Thank you. Good, balanced post. The persecution of Lance Armstrong seemed simply vindictive. Even if Lance doped, he was participating on a level playing field with the rest of the teams who also were surely doping. It was part and parcel with the sport. I still respect Lance for his talent, and most of all, for his dedication and hard work. Cycling seems to want to destroy itself.

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