MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

January 17, 2013

COLUMN: Armstrong: Champion of cheaters

By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor

— Over the shock of Lance Armstrong’s come-clean mission?

If not, well, maybe the most anti-climatic sports moment of 2013 will heal you when the Biggest Cheater in Cycling History bears all at the altar of St. Oprah tonight.

Thanks, I’ll pass and play catch up, then compare with what’s already leaked.

What seems to be certain is that he’ll admit he cheated using performance-enhancing drugs in winning seven Tour De France titles. What’s unsure is how sorry he was.

Who cares.

If this is followed by anything other than to walk away, who should?  The damage is much too much. The man lived a lie for a long time and denied it at every turn, even winning defamation suits from media who dared to call him the fraud he was.  

Here’s the cynic in me: Armstrong somehow is hoping to repair his checkbook and in turn, a sport that should have made cynics out of anyone that still bothers to follow it, maybe more so than baseball — and by the way, Curt Schilling, you were right. If there ever was a reason or season for the voters to make a statement on the tainting of the game these drugs have caused, it was this year. Roger Clemens’ feelings are hurt, but the only economic impact in this instance will be felt in Cooperstown, N.Y., where the annual induction ceremony won’t occur.

(Psst...I’d like to have thought the voters just saved the town the wasted expense of preparing for a gathering that never showed up —  that in its own way, would have provided the statement to Clemens, Barry Bonds and the gang.)

But back to Armstrong, who now can go the way of Pete Rose. If not allowed to compete in various venues, he can spin this into the victim role and like Rose, show up in the vicinity of events and sign autographs, and maybe find a girl half his age (note to Pete: I don’t think the reality show on your love life is going to bring you closer to the Hall, but then, it’s really all been about the dollar anyway, right?)

It is always about the dollar, even in a case where it appears confession will come with a 12-step cash process of having to pay those who he did wrong, starting with a London newspaper which lost the slander suit.  Armstrong needs a venue in which to work to address these debts. Reports are that the Postal Service, which poured sponsorship cash into his team, is going to come after him as well.

Average Joes can lose a career with a mistake.  If I took someone’s story and called it my own, and confessed before I got caught, it wouldn’t matter. Those with marketing muscle? They just say I’m sorry, get easily forgiven by a gullible market, and reinvent themselves within the framework of that dynamic with pomp and circumstance.

Jealous? Well, um, maybe. Nah.   

But remember, you too are probably an average Joe too — at least, in comparison with the Lance Armstrongs of the world, the cheaters they are.

I muse at the words which have been written, still calling Lance a hero. Yeah, he beat cancer, a inspiring, heroic fete in itself — or with all the lying going on, did the testicular cancer come from the drugs?  Can you be sure?

The only thing we know he did was win seven Tour de Frances against — if you’ve been keeping score of all the fallout in the sport — other cheaters who didn’t cheat and train as good.

But in our world, that’s worth something. And it’s proven every time a player shoots some of this stuff into his body, every time an NFL team films an opponent’s practice under cover, or every time a college player accepts cash outside a college education for signing a national letter of intent, or when a coach sends a player to a camp with school funds, or referees are influenced to call a game your team’s way, or a school sneaks an illegal transfer under the nose of the state’s governing body for high school sports.

Competition is doing what you have to do to win. One hundred-ten percent, no limits, all in, all you’ve got, risk it all. Leave it all out there. And it brings out the worst in us because we’re not sure of how much is too much.

And pushed to face it, most of us would cross our fingers and smile our way through it.

Or would we?

Well at least the USPS can get closer to financial health off of this chump.