It’s old news that Lance Armstrong did indeed dope his way to his multiple Tour de France victories. His titles have been stripped from him. Future generations will know him as yet one more infamous athlete who broke the rules to win and later was disgraced when the violations became known.
Why? It’s a no-brainer to understand that. No matter how great his gifts as an athlete — and he was very, very good — the only way to win that particular competition meant finding every possible advantage, including doping.
When everyone else cheats — and widespread cheating outside the U.S. teams has been acknowledged — honesty may keep a character intact, but the cheaters stand on the victory platforms. Armstrong and his teammates didn’t enter the Tour de France to lose, after all.
And speaking of his teammates, they clearly benefited by Armstrong’s actions. They also participated. The web of deceit expands pretty widely. Trainers, massage therapists, physician, etc. — they were all involved. Slowly, many have come forward. They, too, will be forever tainted, just not quite so publicly.
Cheating and lying always hurt others, including remote supporters. One of the greatest of self-deceptions is the idea of “victimless” crimes. No matter how much we want to tell ourselves that “we are not hurting anyone” by our willingness to slide over the ethical edge, it simply is not true.
Furthermore, only the naive believe that these disclosures and repercussions will end cheating and doping as long as they give the competitive edge in a sport like biking. People will simply develop more creative and sophisticated ways to beat the system.
Now, despite the cheating, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the foundation Armstrong set up for cancer research, Livestrong, has helped many. Wonderful, powerful, healing results can and do spring from one who is deeply morally flawed. Good thing, since all of us are tinged by sin and brokenness in some way.
So, having acknowledged these things, I ask: How can we so change the culture of these particular kinds of contests in which doping does convey a major advantage?
Ideally, such practices should become not only rare, but simply detestable in the minds of the competitors.
More policing, tests and inspections will not ultimately solve the problem. Right now, the rewards for winning dangled in front of the competitor so dazzle the eye and the bank account that compromised ethics are a minor price to pay.
The loss of lucrative endorsement contracts, plus the likelihood of multiple lawsuits, will hit Armstrong hard: millions of dollars a year now gone. Lawsuits threaten past earnings. No deep-pocketed corporation will ever want to link its name to Armstrong or anyone associated with him again.
I wonder if the hope of lucrative endorsement contracts underlies the cheating culture here. Mounds of money piled upon Armstrong — the kind of riches most of us ordinary mortals will never, ever know. Perhaps we should say “thanks be to God” that we won’t.
Now, any halfway grounded biblical scholar knows the Bible never says that money itself is evil. The clear statement reads: “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Oh yes, yes, it is. For the love of money, people do lie, cheat and destroy on the way to the top, not caring about those who suffer collateral damage.
A few have the exceptional gift of being able to manage large financial resources without corruption. What a blessing they are to God and others! Most people just want more, more and more.
Perhaps systematic teaching and modeling of the freedom of contentment would change the culture. I know myself that when I choose contentment with what I have, it actually frees me to perform better and with greater passion for excellence. It takes pressure off, releasing energy for higher goals.
How would your own life change if you look at what you have and say, “I will be content with this.”
THE REV. CHRISTY THOMAS is the pastor of First United Methodist Church of Krum. Reach her by calling 940-482-3482 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .