Following the release of a 100 page document by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that Lance Armstrong is an inveterate liar and a cheat, the man confessed his sins in a two-part interview with Oprah that has caused no end of ripples in the media pool. In a word, after getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar he has shed some crocodile tears and “confessed” that he was indeed stealing cookies. Among the other sources that have found Armstrong’s confession of interest is USA Today which led its January 19th edition with a story that asks the question whether or not Americans will forgive the man for his many sins.
The article contends that forgiveness is in the American character — “especially if you can throw a ball, sing a song, make a speech, coach a team, or hold a camera.” I would add that it helps if you can manage a tear or two. A number of examples are mentioned, including such infamous types as Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Martha Stewart, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton, and Bernard Madoff. But Armstrong may be a horse of a different color: he lied so convincingly and for so long the author concludes that he may have a difficult time.
What Armstrong must do, apparently, is work his way through a proven procedure that includes public confession, contrition, conversion, and atonement. It’s not at all clear, however, that Armstrong has made it over even the first hurdle, given the staged format of his “confession” on the Oprah show. But in the end, the article concludes he may be forgiven because he has done so much good with his fight against cancer, his involvement with the culture of professional cycling which makes him only one of many rule-breakers, and the fact that “he didn’t hurt anyone.”
This is where I part company with the author and begin to wonder about the thoroughness of his research. He seems to ignore the people that Armstrong hurt in so many ways, including other cyclists whose careers he destroyed and whose lives he almost certainly destroyed as well — not to mention the people he took to court and collected money from because they supposedly slandered him. He was nothing if not a bully and a master at intimidation and it took years for people around him to have courage enough to speak up. So when the author says he “hasn’t hurt anyone,” he is clearly wrong, and this makes me wonder if we can believe anything we read — even if it is written in what is generally regarded as a reliable source. It’s enough to make one a bit cynical — even if Armstrong’s behavior hadn’t already accomplished that.