Cue the violins and pass the hankies, Lance Armstrong is unhappy with his life.
You remember Armstrong. At one time he was among the most admired people in the universe, both for his athletic prowess and his humanitarian endeavors. Armstrong won seven consecutive Tour de France titles, cycling’s Holy Grail, from 1999 to 2005. He is also a cancer survivor who created the Livestrong Foundation in 1997, an organization that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research and given hope to tens of thousands of cancer victims and survivors. Armstrong personally reached out to many of them individually, providing support, encouragement and comfort in their darkest hours.
But Armstrong’s life began unraveling in 2012 when he was stripped of his Tour de France titles for blood doping and banned from cycling for life. After repeatedly denying PED use for more than a decade, he admitted in an interview with Oprah in 2013 his denials had been lies. In the ensuing six years, Armstrong has spent more than $100 million fighting and settling fraud accusations, resolving the last legal matter earlier this year. Perhaps worst of all, he viciously attacked – in the media and the courts - anyone who dared contradict him and tell the truth about the fraudulent life he led. Among the many targets of his wrath were former friends and associates, whose lives he destroyed in the process.
Armstrong is complicated, both hero and villain, someone to be admired and yet vilified, which is to say he is human. Like many of us, he has done good deeds and made mistakes. But the only person to blame for his current condition is himself, unlike so many individuals who have no control over the tragedies that befall them.
Yet in a ‘Freakonomics’ podcast Armstrong lamented his current circumstances as an outcast, comparing it to that of another PED user, Alex Rodriguez, who he claims has been given a pass by fans and the press for his lies. He also maintained his longtime stance that doping was rampant in cycling and he’s been cast as the scapegoat. The validity of that position is undeniable. But the “woe is me” ploy rings hollow and should draw little sympathy. He knew the inherent risks in his actions when he took them.
Armstrong admitted in the podcast that “I treated people the wrong way...(but) I have traveled the world to sit with, to talk to, to apologize to, to make amends (to them) and to try to move forward.” In a recent ‘Today’ interview, Armstrong said he’ll spend the “rest of his life” trying to make amends to the people he let down and who view him as a fraud. Those actions are admirable, and constitute the best way to rehabilitate his image, if only he could focus on them.
Life is lived moving forward, not the reverse. But rather than focus on the future, Armstrong seems intent on living in his conflicted past, a strategy that is unlikely to garner him any sympathy.
Jordan Kobritz is a non-practicing attorney and CPA, former Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. He is a professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog, sportsbeyondthelines.com. The opinions contained in this column are the author’s. Kobritz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.