Watching Lance Armstrong successively “win” the Tour de France was stirring.
The intrigue of recent times has blunted somewhat the celebratory mood; intrigue arising from a deception of dimensions never before seen in elite sport.
There is, however, within that an inspiration that reaches beyond human artefact.
Millions around the world drew strength and courage, not to mention commitment and hope, from Armstrong’s well-chronicled confrontation with and survival from testicular cancer.
Armstrong cheated at cycling, but such trickery was not an option as he wrestled with the arcane reality of cancer.
Locked in a life and death wrestle with this so far unfathomable human killer, the man who was to become a hero to many, never blinked and the steely determination that enabled his survival, morphed, it seemed, into a purpose-driven cycling career in which the desire to win overrode decency and good sense.
Confronted with such an implacable adversary that is cancer, Armstrong employed whatever he could find in the medicinal armoury to win and it seems the “take no prisoners” attitude such a confrontation demanded worked, for years, without apparent fault in elite cycling.
What Armstrong did was unquestionably wrong, but without apologising for his behaviour, it is important to judge him in context of the time, his life and in losing our salvos of criticism, remember the Bible quote in which it is argued that he, who is without sin, should cast the first stone.
The doings of Armstrong were quite clearly wrong, offending the values most hold decent, filtering through cycling and leaking into other sports.
In the broad sweep of world events, the corruption of the sort inculcated by Armstrong is inconsequential compared to other happenings in which hundreds, if not millions of people, young and old, innocent and willing participants, died from hunger or political malfeasance and the perverse distortions heaped on others throughout the world, mostly the poor, by egoists driven by the flawed belief that happiness and contentment could be found in the accumulation of wealth and power.
Arguments of difference immediately enter the conversation, but at base the drivers are identical – the desire to succeed at the expense of others, whatever the cost.
Looking down from the commanding heights of success, Armstrong’s values and ideals, arising from the seemingly groundless jumble of principles that drive the commercial world, had such a hold on his psyche that the more he pedalled, the deeper he found himself in the intrigue.
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