Dan Empfield—the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Slowtwitch.com (one of my favorite triathlon sites)—wrote this very articulate and well-reasoned opinion piece on Lance Armstrong. Dan worked with Armstrong personally during his first triathlon career and even let the young pro cyclist live with him when he was breaking onto the scene.
It is—in my opinion—the best, most unbiased piece on Armstrong since his doping suspension. Lance has (perhaps understandably) attracted a lot of negative press over the past several weeks. The US Anti-Doping Agency report unveiled a comprehensive, systematic doping program which helped power Lance and US Postal/Discovery to 7x Tour wins. In the aftermath, each of those seven titles has been stripped, and the man best known as a fighter resigned to a quiet ‘mea culpa’. It has yielded a firestorm of opinion—supporters blindly ignoring the comprehensive and overwhelming evidence of doping, and the opposition damning any endeavor (charitable or otherwise) that involved Armstrong.
Let us state it simply. Lance Armstrong cheated and doped to win cycling races. He used his story, his talents, and a regimented doping program to earn a fortune and become an icon. He lied—repeatedly—and coerced the silence of fellow riders, associates, and former friends. Armstrong’s rolodex must be like a mine field of friends bygone.
But he was also selfless. His charity, Livestrong, raised hundreds of million dollars helping cancer awareness, education, and building support networks for those diagnosed. He rode bikes with NYC firefighters after September 11th; he visited hundreds—if not thousands—of cancer patients each year, telling them to keep fighting and providing whatever help he could.
Humans are tragically flawed. History has shown that we all are capable of both incredibly generous and terrible things—often simultaneously. Lance Armstrong is no different.