American cyclist Lance Armstrong may be considered a major fraud to anti-doping fanatics. However, to most people, he will likely go down in history as one of greatest competitors the sport of cycling has ever known. He will be seen as the most deserving winner of seven Tour de France races regardless of the fact that he was officially stripped of the titles. Armstrong simply did what all elite athletes do. He used steroids and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). And he lied about it.
The use of doping products and methods – whether it’s amphetamines, erythropoietin (EPO), anabolic steroids, testosterone or blood doping – has been pervasive throughout the history of the cycling. Cycling has no “doping era” comparable to baseball’s “steroid era”. It’s just one long history of doping from beginning to end. There has been nothing to suggest that this will change any time soon. Doping remains a problem today. And athletes are still lying about it.
However, Armstrong’s major mistake was not necessarily the doping. It was that he went far beyond the normal behavior of an elite athlete when it came to denying it. Of course, given Armstrong’s dominance of the sport, he was asked about doping much more often than his peers. This meant that he had to lie far more frequently than everyone else. Unfortunately, Armstrong didn’t stop there. He took it a step further and aggressively attacked his accusers and tried to discredit them and sometimes attempted to destroy their careers.
After all these years, Armstrong finally gets it. It’s not the doping. It’s his overreaction and unjust treatment of his accusers. Armstrong has since recognized that his behavior of treating people “like shit” was wrong. He acknowledged the err of his ways in an interview with Movember Foundation CEO Adam Garone in the podcast “Movember Radio” published on December 8, 2015.
“There are really two big mistakes that I made, in most people’s minds, everybody’s mind, and that was the doping and the treatment of others. I think as time goes on, more and more people understand that the doping just was what it was. It really was completely pervasive. And you really didn’t have a choice — well, you did have a choice: Your choice was to go home, which nobody took that choice. Everybody geared up and stayed.
“But all those people that made that first mistake, which now nobody cares about, none of them treated people like shit. None of them attacked another human being. None of them sued another human being. And I did all those things.”
Bingo. If Armstrong was simply another in the long list of athletes caught doping, he would have only been banned for one or two years by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). It was his extracurricular behavior that made him enemy number one among anti-doping crusaders. As a result, USADA gave Armstrong a lifetime suspension from all sports competition.
In a fair and just world, USADA would have banned him solely on his doping violation. But history has shown that USADA is anything but fair. USADA is prone to using athletes as scapegoats. It had no interest in fairness when it came to Armstrong. USADA only wanted to make an example out of Armstrong.
The lesson among athletes is to never “isolate, attack, ostracize, incite another human being” for simply telling the truth about the widespread use of steroids and PEDs in elite sports.
“So my words to an 18-year-old me would be, you know, Understand that you may face some decisions in this sport, but, man, don’t ever isolate, attack, ostracise, incite another human being. Because the doping isn’t — we’re not talking about this because I doped. We’re talking about all of this because of the way I treated other people. And that’s my mistake, and I own that.”
Practically everyone in elite sports is doping. And they are all lying about. Just don’t be an asshole about it.