A-Z Day 8
I can’t do it.
But I can’t stay away. And so I’m going to write about Lance Armstrong again.
“…I don’t care [if Lance cheated]. I’m wearing yellow just to say thank you. If he cheated in a sport where cheating is as common as eating, then I’m wearing yellow to thank him for everything he’s done since he cheated.” ~Rick Reilly, ESPN
I know Lance Armstrong has inspired a lot of people. That’s not being debated. And I know Livestrong has helped a lot of people through difficult and uncertain experiences. That isn’t being contested either. Lance Armstrong and Livestrong have done great things for many, many people. Lance Armstrong’s most ardent supporters are insisting that the hope and inspiration that he has invoked should wipe-out his alleged crimes. It’s a specious argument.
Does charity work erase fraud?
Do yellow wristbands justify cheating?
Are fundraising dollars indulgences for lies?
And if so, what is the standard? $1 million raised? $5 million? How much good does one have to do before egregious crimes can be overlooked by an adoring public and a sycophantic press? I’d like to know. That way, I’ll have a definitive goal to work toward before I start defrauding all the people who donated money to my charities in good faith.
Ah. I’m turning cynical.
But the question is justified.
Is there a threshold in our culture when good works can erase our sins? Or is it simply enough to be, in Reilly’s words “a hope machine”?
Bernie Madoff donated millions of dollars to charity. He’s in jail.
Jonah Leher had good, original ideas in his book “Imagine”, but he also fabricated Bob Dylan quotes. His reputation is destroyed.
Greg Mortenson’s story is a lie, and his career as a writer is over. But he did actually build a few schools.
And now Lance Armstrong. Is he above reproach?
All the good Armstrong has done has been facilitated and funded by his 7 Tour victories. All the money he has earned as a celebrity-spokesman and high-dollar speaker originated in Paris. Every yellow wristband sold, and every dollar donated to Livestrong is French. The foundation of Lance Armstrong are his Tour de France titles. Does it matter that those titles were stolen? Does it matter that in order for those titles to materialize, other people’s careers and reputations were sacrificed on the Altar of Lance? Is the mission of Livestrong so noble, and so untouchable, that it absolves Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, and Michele Ferrari of any wrongdoing?
For Rick Reilly, the answer is obvious.
The answer is also just as obvious for me.