Lance Armstrong, The Empire State Building Shooting, And What It Means To Be American


You know Lance Armstrong. From the TV. From his books. From his magazine covers. From his cancer. From his infidelity. From his bracelets that were such a fad for about six weeks there a few years back. You also know him (you must!) from his bike. It was on that bike that he made his fame, winning seven Tour de France titles and capturing America’s heart in the process.

Those seven Tour de France titles are now gone. Well, sort of. Maybe. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which is a quasi-governmental agency founded to prevent steroids and other such things in sports, was bringing a case against Lance, and he threw in the towel. Said he didn’t want to drag it out. Said he was tired of fighting. Said he’s never tested positive once in his career, and doesn’t want to do this anymore. (Some say he didn’t want to be publicly embarrassed by the hearing… this is also probably true.)

So the USADA took that as a sign of guilt, and stripped him of his Tour de France titles and his Olympic bronze medal. Simple, right? Well, not really. Because the USADA didn’t give him those titles, or that medal. No one knows if they even have the authority to take them away. So now this will probably get dragged out even more, with more hearings, the USADA fighting the international cycling union and the IOC or what the hell ever… It’s not over. Not by a long shot.

And now this is the part of this essay where I tell you how I feel about it. Where I take an “angle.” Where I either defend him and say that he deserves to have the medals stripped, or where I say that the USADA is acting outside their jurisdiction and should let a retired man live out his life in peace.

I was mulling it over this morning. (Yes, readers out there, newsflash. We writers mull over which side we’re going to take on issues sometimes. Real life isn’t The Newsroom where the capital-T Truth is so powerful we can’t fight it. A lot of the time we go with what’s in our hearts, but a lot of times we don’t know, so we go with what will be more interesting. What will rile up the discussion more.) I was mulling over which side I was going to take, for Lance or against him, and then ten people got shot outside the Empire State Building, and my opinion on Lance Armstrong and his doping allegations was made so crystal clear that it practically shone. My opinion? I didn’t care.

And I still don’t. Did Lance Armstrong dope? Probably. Let’s be adults here. They all doped. Probably every one of them. If some didn’t? Good for them. I’m not trying to take the high road here, and be holier-than-thou and act above it, but if top athletes want to add oxygen to their blood or take HGH so they can go 10 seconds faster in some race, what the hell ever. I simply don’t care at all. Let ’em pump themselves up.

If putting some oxygen in his blood meant Lance could win seven Tour de France titles, titles that made Americans happy, made us proud to be American, that’s great. That’s more than great. It’s needed.

So go on, cyclists. Pump yourselves up with chemicals I can’t pronounce. Thin your blood, thicken your blood, whatever. If it means you winning a race, and bringing some pride to America, and raising that flag over your head, and that flag will stand for something victorious and happy, and make me forget for a beautiful second the real truths about this nation, that we are a country that allows its citizens to kill each other so easily, constantly, perpetually, in front of the Empire State Building, in the streets of Hollygrove and on the South Side of Los Angeles… if you can make me forget that, even for an instant, then the doping was worth it. So go on then, cyclists, make me forget. Win your races. Hold that flag up. Make us proud.

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