Lance Armstrong gave up his fight against doping allegations Thursday night and could be stripped of his Tour de France titles and receive a lifetime ban as early as today.
And while Nike says it will stand by Armstrong, with whom it has the popular Livestrong brand, many others are not. Their disappointment with Armstrong, despite his denial of wrongdoing, is clear and palpable.
Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News remembered that when U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Karas sentenced sprinter Marion Jones to prison — yes, someone actually did time — for lying about her use of performance-enhancing drugs, he spoke of the worldwide lie that comes from “knowing that a razor-thin margin makes the difference” and not being “keenly aware and very careful about what he or she put in her body and the effects.” Lupica writes:
Armstrong will try to make himself a victim. Say that he is a victim of the USADA and former teammates, had no chance to beat the rap, deck stacked against him, all that. He fought charges of being just another doper on a bike for a long time and now he stops fighting. Will try to make himself the Jim Thorpe of his sport, wrongly stripped of his titles the way Thorpe was stripped of his gold medals nearly 100 years ago in the Olympics.
But if USADA is right and Armstrong’s former teammates are right, then he is nowhere being the true victim Thorpe was. Even if one of the things he ends up losing is the bronze medal he won once at the Sydney Olympics. Marion Jones’ Olympics.
If you have followed Armstrong the way the other riders followed him, you know how aggressive he has been for so long, how litigious he has been, as he protected his legacy, his brand. Or maybe just the myth he created about himself, that he was different, braver, better, cleaner than all the other guys in the race.
From Yahoo’s Les Carpenter:
No way if there’s even a hint of hope does Lance Armstrong let this happen to his name. He was always too proud, too defiant, too stubborn to give up. He beat cancer. He beat the federal government. He beat everything that came his way. He didn’t relent.
If there was a fight to still fight, he would have fought it.
Now we're burned by another fraud masquerading as a hero.
Separating Armstrong’s tainted athletic accomplishments from the good his Livestrong Foundation has done is tricky. “Judging Lance,” ESPN’s Darren Rovell writes, remains “as complex an exercise as we’ve ever seen.”
His biggest sponsor, Nike, says it will continue to stick by him and his foundation. But things will slowly change.
One has to think that the Livestrong line, which began as an offshoot from the incredible success of the yellow rubber bands worn around millions of people's wrists, will decrease in number. As will the donations to Armstrong's foundation, especially from the people who were inspired to donate by the miracle of his story. It's not as good a story, they'll say.
But Armstrong won't lose the people who he told to live strong, who he inspired to fight on when they had lost their hair, when chemo had ravaged their bodies just like it had invaded his. He won't lose the people who, through his story, believed and, in the end, cheated death.
With the prevalence of media and the way we consume it, we as human beings are challenged more than ever before to digest information and give our take. We are challenged by friends at dinner and by co-workers at the office. What do we think about what happened with this person?
After all these years of fighting, maybe it just doesn’t matter whether Armstrong, years removed from his Tour de France dominance, cheated. Maybe it’s possible to hold contradictory feelings, to admire him and admit that he was a doper. Maybe it just doesn’t matter anymore. From SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg:
“Today I turn the page,” he proudly announced in his statement, which he presumably wrote with “The Star-Spangled Banner” playing on his iPod. “I will no longer address the issue, regardless of the circumstances.”
This is ridiculous. Doping charges are serious, the evidence is significant, and some credible people have accused Armstrong. (I mean, how much of a jerk would Armstrong have to be for this many people to want to frame him?) Armstrong was losing this battle. He can't just hide the ball and declare the game over, except ...
Well, except maybe he can.
He is banking on one thing here: That we don't care if he used drugs.
He is probably right.
We don’t care.
Admit it. We ... don’t ... care.
It's Lance's choice to give up the fight. It's the choice of others to give him a permanent place in the asterisk hall of shame.— Len Berman (@LenBermanSports) August 24, 2012
But it’s just not simple for Armstrong to, as he said in giving up his fight, “turn the page.”
Text: Armstrong’s statement