Friday, January 18, 2013
I used to have a newspaper clipping of Lance Armstrong winning the Tour De France taped on my office door.
At the time, I managed several people on a marketing team and thought it served as an inspirational tale for all. The picture showed him crossing the Tour De France finish line in first place. This was the first win in his comeback tour after his battle with cancer. I don’t remember the headline. The picture was enough for me.
I’ve followed Armstrong, and his story for years. I lived and worked in the professional cycling world for about a minute in life; enough to have known personally many of his past teammates and the culture in which they’ve participated for years.
The issues with the sport of cycling do not come down to one cyclist; no matter what his ill deeds.
But I, among so many of us, held out for a long time, hoping his claims of innocence were true. I hold on to the ideals of achievement, born purely out of raw talent, untellable hours of work and mental discipline most of us will never know. That ideal serves as inspiration to me, in sport as in life.
He put in the hours. He had the talent, and the mental discipline, which convinced many to follow, and, which, by his own confession, is what eventually led him here. I’ve worked in both the professional sports arena, as well as professional performing arts. For a long time, I’ve been struck by the similarities in personality traits between those who succeed in both worlds.
The mental discipline of athletes in endurance sports and professional ballet dancers is amazing, and the innate selfishness it takes to become the best is at once both awe inspiring and off-putting — to me anyway.
In ballet, the acceptable underbelly culture was litheness, to the point of ill-health, brought by ongoing anorexia and boughts of bulimia.
These activities aren’t considered illegal.
They’re just unhealthy — to the point of being lethal.
But it was what people did. They just didn’t speak about it. If others didn’t “know,” then, well, they didn’t have to do anything about it, or pass judgment, or feel one way or the other. It was easier that way.
Armstrong did not do this on his own. But he falls alone, and to me, perhaps that is enough. I search for forgiveness. But maybe it’s easier for me, as I haven’t been personally affected, as have so many for such a long time.
I find it striking, and maybe a little scary, the judgments brought by the general public, with only a peripheral understanding of this world, and what those who’ve succeeded for years have known, and have participated in both willingly and apparently unwittingly.
Are we, the general public court of condemnation, more upset of the actions of one person, the amount of time it’s taken for the story to fully unfold, or the decades-long blind eye that everyone has turned, as long as everyone played along?