LIESTRONG: Lance Armstrong has finally admitted to doping, but is it too late for forgiveness? Photo courtesy Thao Nguyen/Associated Press

If you were surprised, you clearly don’t follow the news.

Surprised he actually admitted it, maybe, but definitely not surprised it was true. Just about everyone, from the UCI to just average citizens, had already decided Lance Armstrong had cheated. After all, they don’t strip someone of seven Tour de France titles on just hearsay.

For those who follow cycling, the admission was even less surprising. For them, doping in their sport is an accepted malignance. Where we sit back and pretend to be shocked, they simply say, “well, it makes sense.”

So why are we mad? Why do we care? I suppose we’re upset because we’ve been duped. Armstrong wasn’t just a champion cyclist, he was OUR champion cyclist. He was American. He was a cancer survivor. He took on impossible obstacles and leaped over them in a blaze of glory. Before we knew him to be a cheater, he simply appeared to be the manifestation of the American spirit.

Maybe that’s why were so angry. Because we now know the dream, Lance’s AMERICAN dream, was just that: an illusion. Think about it. I mean REALLY think about it. Can we even call Lance Armstrong an athlete? Virtually every meaningful accomplishment has been taken away from him and he’s been banned from cycling and triathlons and every other thing he’s tried. So what exactly makes him an athlete? The fact he could ride a bike? Please, A five-year-old can do that.

That’s the illusion, and the curtain’s been pulled up on the whole charade. Lance Armstrong wasn’t an athlete, he was the leader of a criminal enterprise. Hyperbole, you say? Well look, at it like this: Armstrong lied, cheated, and deceived his way to the top. And then, when he was on top, he fermented those lies and enshrouded him in a veil of deceit. He protected himself by placing fall-men around him, guys who would take the rap to keep the kingpin free and clear.

COURAGE OR COWARDICE: Some will applaud Armstrong for coming clean, others will see it as nothing more then another ploy to stay relevant. Photo courtesy Gary Miller/Getty Images

This guy wasn’t Michael Jordan, he was Al Capone in spandex.

Even the way he supposedly “came clean” (pun intended) begs us to roll our eyes and shake our heads in admonishment. Did he walk into ESPN studios and spill his guts to the millions of sports fans that used to cherish him? No, he told everything to Oprah Winfrey, someone who has about as much to do with sports as Dr. Phil.

And WHY did he ‘fess up to Oprah? Easy: it’s just another publicity stunt. His confession was going to be news, so he told it to a used-to-be-relevant daytime television host whose startup cable channel has been about as successful  as Curt Schilling’s video game company. What was in it for Lance? I’m sure a huge payday.

I’m not saying if he had gone to 60 Minutes or ESPN that they wouldn’t have paid him or even paid him well, but at least then the stunt wouldn’t have been so transparent. By spilling his guts to the master of self-promotion, he’s practically assured himself of another decade or so in the spotlight and it’s shameless.

And that’s all Lance wanted in the first place.

He knows he can never be adored again, so if he can’t be talked about for the right reasons, he’d rather be talked about for the wrong ones than to not be talked about at all. That’s where he was headed, by the way: obscurity. His medals were taken from him, essentially convicting him as a cheater, and he had no rebuttal. Knowing his silence was the only closure we’d ever get, we moved on. And Lance couldn’t stand that.

So if he wants to speak the truth for once in order to stay in the limelight, let him. What really bugs me, though, are now these reports that he’s considering testifying against UCI officials that helped keep his name clean for so long.

Are you kidding me? No, really, are you effing kidding me? If it’s cowardly for a low-level guy to nark on his bosses, what is it when the biggest fish in the sea tries to take everyone down with him?

It’s like if Mark McGwire, when he admitted to using PEDs, came out and said “yeah, and here’s everyone who did it with me.” That’s what Jose Canseco did and that’s why we view him as something slightly above dirt on the ladder of dignity.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame the UCI for wanting to clean up their organization. In fact, I commend them for it. But Armstrong should’ve said, “thanks, but no thanks.”

Think about it. I mean REALLY think about it. If Lance Armstrong wanted to, he could use this opportunity as a teaching moment for others; a move that — dare I say it — would be somewhat commendable.

How much better would it be if, when approached by the UCI to testify, Armstrong said, “you know what, I didn’t let other people speak to what I did or didn’t do, I eventually came clean for myself. And that’s what I encourage others to do. I didn’t like it when others accused me of stuff, so I’m not going to do it now.”

Had Lance Armstrong done something like that, he might’ve, if only for a second, resembled the man we once knew. The man who punched cancer in the face and kept on pedaling. The man who seemed to selflessly create a brand focused on health initiatives and cancer awareness.

But, as we’ve come to learn, that Lance never existed. He’s just a guy we thought we once knew.

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NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
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