Lance Armstrong said repeatedly that he didn't take performance-enhancing drugs on his way to seven Tour de France titles. There were no shortcuts, he's said. He simply tackled the bike race course with the same fierce determination he used in his battle against cancer.
We've now heard a lot of speculation that his story is about to get a rewrite. He was to film a "candid" interview with Oprah Winfrey Monday to air Thursday. What he says may not be known until then, depending on how tightly they keep it under wraps, but he was expected to admit that he cheated. If it is true, it has been billed as his first step to reclaim his reputation and ability to compete.
On the athletic field, I've got no guts and I get no glory. In truth, I have no athletic ambitions. I'm not a couch potato. I'm a walker, a casual bike rider, a busy person who in the course of the average day clocks the suggested 10,000 steps on the pedometer. But sports is not my area of competitiveness.
I have lots of friends who ride their bikes 50 miles on the weekend for fun or run a marathon or play team sports. I have senior citizen friends who participate in annual competitions. One friend was a serious swimmer until she turned 99 and could no longer get to the pool.
I admire these athletes and maybe even envy them a little, but not enough to sign up.
Doping leaves me confused. I don't know anyone who loves athletic competition so much they're willing to cheat to win a title. It's hard for me to understand why someone would risk all the hours he or she has spent training and competing. What's the point of all those hours, anyway, if you're not trying to see how far your own body can take you and how much you can achieve?
Recently, several friends and I were discussing it. One told me that is why people cheat. They've put in so many hours and competed so hard and simply cannot win. For some people, she said, the hours create the cheating, the sense that one has paid in advance for the victory and if the only way you can get it is to dope, then so be it.
I don't buy that. That flies in the face of what sports and competition are about. And there are lots of great athletes who don't take performance-enhancing drugs, even if it means they never win a title.
Maybe it's because of the money that follows high-performance athletes, another friend suggested. You see all the perks and accolades and actual cash that follow some athletes and you just want to grab a chunk of it.
If that's the case, then winning by doping is no more glorious than robbery, because the person who does it actively and deliberately takes the financial rewards that follow a win out of the hands and pockets of the person who would rightfully claim it.
I believe in redemption and forgiveness with all my heart. I hope Lance Armstrong told the truth, whatever that truth is. I wish him a long and happy life. I hope he will return to competition on his other playing field, raising awareness and money for cancer research.
But I have trouble picturing him as a sports hero; he will always be suspect there, regardless of what he tells Winfrey.
I think doping allegations must be taken seriously, which is why keeping Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds out of baseball's Hall of Fame was the right decision.
Without sportsmanship, it really isn't sports.
Deseret News staff writer Lois M. Collins may be reached by email at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at loisco.
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