Hagiography (A-Z Day 8)

Posted by on Aug 29, 2012 in Bike | 3 Comments

A-Z Day 8



I can’t do it.

I tried.

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.

So long as I like you, you can cheat!

Image: Deadspin



  1. 1speed
    August 29, 2012

    I get your point, but I wouldn’t have wasted your “H” on anything that has to do with Rick Reilly — he’s a known hack and plagiarizes HIMSELF (he’s handed articles that contained whole paragraph verbatims from earlier articles he himself had written. Not a crime, per se, but the best illustration of a what an unoriginal and lazy writer he is.)

    As for Armstrong, I get your arguments and you’re obviosuly more passionate about the whole story than many (certainly myself.) But just consider this: what has any of this stuff done to yor own relationship to riding a bike? Probably nothing, right? So whatever else cheating scandals (true or false) can do, they can’t make cyclists stop riding their bikes. And that’s all that really matters.

    Great job, and interesting experiment A-Z so far … I’ll be curious to see what you pull out for “X” … 😉

    • Grizzly Adam
      August 29, 2012

      Reilly is a hack, and I hesitated to even bring him up. But he sparked this question about net good wiping out net bad. How do we decide when one outweighs the other? Or does one ever outweigh the other? LA has done a lot of good, but I think he should be punished for breaking the rules (if he did).

      X… yeah that will be tough.

  2. The Flying Ute
    August 29, 2012

    I don’t want to celebrate Lance getting away with cheating. I also hate cancer and think it is a scam. It was cured long ago but the whole system benefits financially by having it around so that doesn’t help Lances cause either.

    As much as I want to hate all the cheaters in the world I think that to waste mire time and money stalking Lance is crazy.
    If beating the system is so easy than how did everyone else get caught? Also, who really cares? Lance was the tide that raised all the ships. Everyone had more cash because he was involved.

    If Tygert wants to do us a favor then he should go chase the crooks on wall street who crashed the entire home financing world.

    They made billions of dollars. Feeding off of all of us.

    Lance at least worked his butt off and overcame huge odds to win. He knows how to suffer and his magic potions were probably just like everyone else’s.

    Also, I haven’t been overly impressed that America is such a moral place. This situational integrity celebration pales in comparison to the Porn problem, alcohol abuse, infidelity, and many more of societies ills. 90% of the NFL is divorced and bancrupt within 3 years of playing their last play.
    The single greatest resource each one of us has is ourself. We need to stop putting anyone on a pedestal and get back to work. Like I’m going to do right now. See ya.

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