Lance Armstrong and the need for ‘visible success’

Lance Armstrong’s fall from the seemingly insurmountable heights of sporting fame has become a topic discussed about as much as the 2012 doomsday prediction. Alas, the former happened more suddenly and tragically than the latter.

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The embarrassing confession (Photo: EPA)

If, like me, you’ve grown up reading Armstrong’s autobiographical books, the revelation of his doping will hurt. Massively. He had already overcome the deadly challenge faced by cancer and conquered death before his very first Tour de France victory. In that, he was a hero already. But if human history is anything to go by, people high on success rarely know when and where to draw the line.

That said, can you realize all by yourself that you’ve got to draw that line? Does it always have to be that you’ve got to be different, stand out from the rest crowd to be noticed and almost worshiped? Armstrong wasn’t the first one to cheat death, and certainly not the last. Did he need a more visible form of success to be remembered in the annals of history? To have that true ‘fulfillment’ in life, do we always need someone else to tell us that we’re great?

Questions can get more curiouser, though. Would’ve Armstrong’s Cancer charity, ‘Livestrong‘, gathered the same publicity and importance without all his (now illegal) superhuman victories and feats on the race track? Would we all have still worn those wristbands? Would it have garnered the same amount of donations from the world over? And what now for the brand of the organization?

Erasing titles and the records of yellow jerseys is theoretically possible, but it is uncanny how the act of forgetting a bad memory is always harder than that of remembering a good one. Armstrong’s ‘make believe’, while it lasted, inspired a generation of athletes and regular people alike. He was sort of an advertisement for sport of cycling. It won’t take long, though, for people to shun the very thought of him when his actions should actually be a benchmark for immorality. In a way, he still is an advertisement for sport, of how not to be successful.

It would be best to end this post with Armstrong’s own words on the probe into the doping scandal:

“Its hard to define victory, but I thought I was out of the woods. And those were some serious wolves.”

He was right about one thing though. Its really not about the bike. It never was. And now it never will be.

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