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Is It Too Late To Forgive Lance Armstrong?

Lance Armstrong finally admitted to the long standing accusations of doping, which isn't all that surprising. But while the shock isn't really there, the debate rages about whether forgiveness will be

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Lance Armstrong finally admitted to the long standing accusations of doping. USA TODAY reports:

Lance Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey that he started using performance-enhancing drugs to gain an edge in cycling in the mid-1990s, before he was diagnosed with cancer, a person familiar with the interview told USA TODAY Sports.

Armstrong and his representatives also have had discussions with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency about meeting soon over several days for a “full debrief,” when Armstrong would be expected to “answer every question, give over records, telephone calls, test results, everything,” the source said.

No one is particularly surprised by this admission, really. Only the most illogical, stalwart fans could stand by the man who beat a field soaked in performance enhancing drugs without also being a user. Not only was Armstrong accused of using EPO, but he also faced charges of threatening teammates both to use and to lie for him.

But while the shock isn’t really there, the debate rages about whether forgiveness will be. Armstrong’s choice to reveal his drug use on Oprah suggests that he wanted to pull at America’s heart strings a little. The Telegraph writes:

Explaining the appeal of ‘telling all’ on Oprah to those not raised in the US is a challenge. If you haven’t seen her story from the beginning – the scrappy woman who managed to turn daytime television upside-down and beat Sally Jesse and Phil Donahue at their own game in the 80s – she might look to the casual observer like just another highly-polished product of American television.

But at home she is far more than that: she is the best friend you never had, the fantasy aunt who always has time to listen to your story, a wellspring of empathy that comes right from her difficult beginnings in Mississippi to become an Oscar nominee for The Color Purple and the first African-American billionaire. She is the American Dream made flesh in the same way of Barack and Michelle Obama, and we love her. Lance Armstrong going on Oprah is an admission that his story needs humanising if he’s to survive the scandal. Or at least, that he thinks it does.

Quartz writes that it isn’t just Armstrong who might find redemption on Oprah’s show:

So the announcement that Winfrey will be conducting Lance Armstrong’s first interview since the cyclist was kicked out of his sport for doping is a much-needed coup for the TV host and media mogul. Armstrong, who is expected to fess up during the Jan. 17 interview, is Winfrey’s first high-profile interview in a while.

But, Oprah or not, is it too late for Lance? The Denver Post says yes:

As I’m writing this Monday morning, Oprah Winfrey may be giving Lance Armstrong a cheesy reassuring tap on the knee as if to say, it’s OK, Lance. I’m still on your side.

I’m not. And neither should you.

CNN’s Jeff Pearlman agrees:

Like Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong is the last to know where he is headed. We are already beginning to speak of him as we do Alf and Emmanuel Lewis and Small Wonder on one of those “I Love the ’80s” shows. We’ll look back at his cycling reign and shrug, because it will be merely an illusion, an ugly period when people cheated to win, then faced a lifetime of banishment.

Armstrong, he argues, didn’t just lie about doping. He lied about the possibilities of human endurance, of strength and courage. He convinced the world that you could be the best, you could work hard and win in the face of a bunch of cheaters. Here’s Pearlman again:

Across the world, millions of people believe in Armstrong’s narrative. They love his wins, yes, but what drives them and inspires them is the way he faced cancer and battled back from a near-death experience. Young children in pediatric care have been relayed his story, have been told that one day, if you stay strong and fight and believe, you, too, can be just like Lance Armstrong.

And not only did Armstrong shatter that dream, he took down several great cyclists with him. That’s what makes Armstrong different from other dopers, says The Denver Post:

What bothers me most about Armstrong is his history of bullying. It’s what separates him from other disgraced dopers. I remember one passage in Tyler Hamilton’s terrific book, “The Secret Race,” where Armstrong is berating him in an Aspen restaurant for ratting him out on “60 Minutes.”

While Armstrong yelled, “I’m going to make your life a living (bleep) hell” and “We are going to (bleep) tear you apart,” Armstrong never once denied what Hamilton said.

Twitter, of course, had something to say:

Armstrong won’t get his trophies back, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll win any of his former fans. If baseball is any indication, the answer is no.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Report Suggests Armstrong Not Just a Doper But a Pusher
Lance Armstrong Surrenders Against Doping Charges and Will be Banned for Life
Where Lance Remains the King

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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