Friday, 25 January 2013

Was Lance Armstrong’s confession on Oprah that he took performance-enhancing drugs, right or wrong?

Was Lance Armstrong’s confession on Oprah that he took performance-enhancing drugs, right or wrong?

The big media news story of the last few weeks has been about Lance Armstrong the seven times Tour de France winner confessing to Oprah Winfrey (the agony aunt of America) that for years he took performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong also admits that he could never have won his seven tour de France titles without the drugs, and that he had been lying to many people for the last ten plus years. He acknowledges that he has put his friends and loved ones through much pain and torture.

Armstrong says that at the time he did not feel like he was cheating and that it appeared to him to be a “level playing field” because everyone else was doing it. I find this argument weak at best and morally corrupt at worse. This argument is what I have (unfortunately) come to expect from a naive teenager who justify their sexual promiscuity with the statement “everyone’s doing it” and not from a 41 yr old world class, multi millionaire athlete, father and husband.

However what I find somewhat grating is the moral hypocrisy from those in the media towards Armstrong’s confession. Some put forth various views that cast suspicion upon the authenticity of his confession. Some say he wants to compete again in triathlons, maybe even cycling. Whilst others say his confession is only because he was caught and that his decision to confess on Oprah was because she would give him an easy ride (no pun intended). Firstly at the age of 41 and having been out of any real competitive sport for the last 5 years I don’t think it is possible for Lance Armstrong to compete at any real serious level (unless he uses performance enhancing drugs, sorry couldn’t resist that one). Secondly was he actually really caught? Armstrong went on record to say that he had been tested more than any other cyclist in history and never tested positive. The only evidence against him came from former team mates who themselves confessed to taking drugs (and therefore implicating Armstrong) in return for light (6 months) punishment. I always find these scenarios akin to liars accusing other people of lying (how do you believe them). Thirdly I don’t buy the idea that confessing on Oprah was an easy option, I mean wouldn’t you rather confess to a priest / pastor in a small booth / office than on one of the biggest talks shows in media? I mean can you confess to any bigger audience in the world than Oprah’s? I think I am right in saying more people watch Oprah than the Tour De France? Whilst I accept that Oprah may be a more genial person to confess to (though her first question went for the jugular), surely human nature would rather confess to a friendly rather than fierce person?

I actually want to commend Lance Armstrong for his confession, on such a very public platform, (maybe others will be inspired to do the same?). This could not have been an easy decision. Apart from the fact he must of known he was going to be castigated by many, he has also opened himself up to numerous litigation cases being filed against him (already to the tune of £10m and rising). Many in his position would of kept up the pretence of the past ten years and taken their lies with them to their grave, leaving many in the public sphere still unsure of his guilt or innocence. No I think his confession was a very difficult decision to come to and will haunt him emotionally and financially for the rest of his life.

Yes he could have and should have confessed a lot earlier, but are we now saying that there comes a time when it is too late to confess? Ask the loved ones of those who have been murdered who have begged the killer to confess the whereabouts of their victim’s body for years. (Ask the relatives of the victims of the Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley). Many in history have chosen in their dying moments that their ‘last words’ be a confession of a previous wrong. At least Armstrong did not wait that long (though I accept there maybe more to confess). Above all else I believe Armstrong proves that adage to be true and that is “confession is good for the soul”.

One of Jesus disciples wrote in 1 John 1:8-10 (NLT) If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

Armstrong still has a long way to go to repair the damage he has done and if truth be told, for some nothing he ever does will be acceptable penance for his crimes. But here a little perspective is called for; he cheated in a bike race and made lots of money from it. I can think of many in the public eye who have fallen from greater heights and managed to redeem themselves in the public eye. I think of Bill Clinton using his political leverage to help re elect President Obama. Many feel he has redeemed himself by his recent years of charitable work. Maybe Armstrong’s great work in fighting cancer will help him to redemption and ‘livestrong’ at least in the eyes of God.

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