Honey's Huddle

Is Lance Armstrong Still A Hero?

For many, many years, cyclist Lance Armstrong was held up around the world as a hero. The collective culture stood in awe, inspired by his seven consecutive Tour de France titles and his bold, unpredictable victory over cancer.

Most heroic, perhaps, was the creation of his foundation, The Lance Armstrong Foundation – now known as Livestrong. The purpose: “to identify the issues faced by cancer survivors in order to comprehensively improve quality of life for members of the global cancer community.”

Since it’s inception in 1997, Livestrong has raised more than $470 million dollars for the fight against cancer, and 81% of the funds went directly to support programs and services for survivors. The foundation raised cancer awareness, hope and more than $325 million from the sale of those brilliant yellow bracelets. Here’s the question: Can good deeds cement the title “hero,” even if the hero is revealed to be – in reality – a determined, but flawed and unethical human being?



In August, Armstrong announced that after more than 10 years of battle, he would stop fighting the charges of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), claiming that he systematically used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career and was instrumental in the organized doping of his tour-winning teammates.

Armstrong said, via the New York Times, “There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ For me, that time is now.” He went on to say that contesting the charges was taking too high a toll on himself, his family and the work of his foundation.

It turns out that giving up the fight meant giving up the hardware and saying a bitter goodbye to all his lucrative sponsorships.

He was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from the sport – his sport – for life, and Tour de France officials are looking to demand repayment of his tour winnings. All nine of Armstrong’s sponsors have dropped him to protect their brands. Barry Petchesky, from Deadspin, says “Everyone’s falling in line behind Nike, whose sudden reach for the moral high ground doesn’t deserve anyone’s praise, but who is the biggest freaking marketing juggernaut in the world.”

It would seem the highest cost of Armstrong’s fall from grace would have to be stepping down as the Chairman of Livestrong.

In a statement posted on Livestrong’s website, he said, “I have had the great honor of serving as this foundation’s chairman for the last five years and its mission and success are my top priorities. Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship. It has been a great privilege to help grow it from a dream into an organization that today has served 2.5 million people and helped spur a cultural shift in how the world views cancer survivors.  This organization, its mission and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart.”

Even as I write this, I am torn to draw any conclusions. Does giving up the fight against the charges – and the ever-growing pile of evidence – mean the accusations are true?

I think so.  And, I’m sickened by the narcissism, greed and the selfishness of someone who would behave so unethically and then smile as he sells us his ideal, his hope, his heroics.

But, I love Livestrong – the organization – what it stands for, works for, and represents. Like so many others, I have lost too many precious people in my life to cancer. I’m thankful that as a result of this man’s dubious success, and his fight to survive ,that this organization does exist for the real heroesall those people and families dealing with the devastating diagnoses of cancer and fighting for their lives.

Lance Armstrong is not a hero. Not to me.

But, he created this heroic force called ‘Livestrong’ that I hope people will continue to recognize for the good that has been, and can still be, done.

Images courtesy of  Patrick Kovarik/Agence France-Presse, Getty Images & Paul Smeulders, CNN

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1445859629 Art Garfield

    This is stupid. Lance Armstrong didn’t break any laws. He wasn’t convicted of any crimes. He passed his tests. Did you know that my son’s heart medication would cause him to fail a test as will pain meds and a handful of other legitimate items you have in your medicine chest.

    The better question is this: when did being an athlete become more important than showing the world that you can come back from terminal cancer and succeed? Heck, Chemotherapy would probably cause you to fail a doping test. Sports stars are not role models. Sports stars have committed vile, violent acts against other people and animals and yet they get to keep playing their sports. They use drugs (the illegal ones) but yet they still get to participate.

    Maybe Lance used drugs, maybe he didn’t. Who cares? His athletic accomplishments are meaningless compared to his gift of hope to humans. Do you think that a cancer patient will find him any less a role model? Do you think that kid with cancer thinks, “gosh, he had to use banned substances to allow him to win a race. I ‘d rather die than accept a dime of the hundreds of millions of dollars he has helped raise for cancer research”

    And, what are these substances? Its not the blood of a virgin. Granted, I don’t know the specific substances they claim he used, but, many of these are the same treatments we use to help sick people feel better. Did Lance stop being a cancer survivor when he won his first tour? Isn’t he simply in remission? Can you ever be 100% cured?

    Livestrong isn’t about stupid sports despite the fact that Nike has commercialized it. It is a philosophy. Live Strong. Meaning, don’t Die Weak. Lance is a role model because he fought. He is a role model because he paid it forward with his gifts. He is a role model because despite all of this nonsense, I can promise you that the bitterness doesn’t come from the loss of lucrative sponsors, it comes from the fact that you and everyone else seems to forget that sick people don’t care about yellow shirts or even yellow wrist bands or pink ribbons. They care about the support they get. They care about the research those ribbons and wrist bands fund. Everyone is aware of cancer. Few people devote their lives to doing something about it.

    Real heros don’t need a yellow cape to prove their worth.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=185000598 Jen Georgeff

      The reason why Lance Armstrong has fallen from grace is because he’s a bully. Many people are testifying that he intimidated them into either using banned substances to win, or intimidating others that knew about it when they were going to testify against him. It doesn’t take away from all the good he has done for cancer awareness and research, but it does say something about his character. I think it was for the best that he distanced himself from Livestrong so that its’ name would not be tarnished when more people started to speak out about the “real” Lance Armstrong. That, in my opinion, is the most admirable thing he could have done.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1372155861 Sileramam Emit

      Yeah right, lady. So it’s perfectly okay that your hero called a woman who, in hindsight, was actually telling the truth, a whore while trying to smear her credibility? It was okay that that he used his millions to hound, harass and legally destroy the lives of other individuals who had the temerity to speak up against the lies? It’s fine with you that he showed utter arrogant disdain for the rule of law and of perjury that we all have to live by? Or that he coerced any and all involved with his teams into cheating with him in order to implicate them enough to keep them silent – and risked their health while doing so? He shows all the signs of being a functioning sociopath, a control freak who thinks he’s above everyone else, above the truth, above all sense of morality. When are you going to wake up and realize that the whole cancer crusade venture was just a self-serving exercise to help rationalize the cheating and to provide a shield which he’s never had any problems using. Does it occur to you that he’s used the cancer victims he claims to care for as much as he;s used an duped everyone else?

      As for Albert – the only lemming is you, for blindly sticking to your cult-like faith in saint Lance. And by the way, the reputations lemmings have for throwing themselves into the sea en masse is a myth – so appropriate to your views of Armstrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10402356 Shandra Goldfinger

    I haven’t been following his case closely, but I’ve heard from friends who are cyclists that every professional, successful cyclist dopes. The ones who don’t get caught are the ones who stay one step ahead of the testing technology. Of course Lance Armstrong is a famous public figure, so everyone is jumping on him. I think we should take this as a lesson and use it to figure out how to discourage athletes from using drugs in all professional sports. Look at factors that can lead to increased doping, look at sports that don’t have major problems and see if we can learn from them. In cycling, if you don’t cheat you don’t stand a chance- so essentially it’s still a level playing field because EVERYONE is doping. That’s something that needs to be fixed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=770120619 Albert F. Spohn

    So these “real hero” cancer survivors you talk about… they are heros only conditionally, then? Did Lance stop being a cancer survivor when he played the cycling game and got caught? Have you vetted all these other “heroes” – i.e., the ones that cheat a poker, maybe sleep around or smoke dope on occassion? How many of them have contributed in the way Lance has to their collective well being? The public response to this, driven by the press and marginally informed bloggers of course, confirms for me that we are truly a race of lemmings.

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