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In Support of Lance Armstrong 13

Lance Armstrong file photo

Photo of Lance Armstrong courtesy of Martyna Borkowski, Rubenstein

Although I have never been a close follower of professional cycling, I had always had immense respect for the sport. It pushes the human limits, encourages people to stay active, and has minimal adverse effects on our environment.

The recent doping allegations and overwhelming evidence against Lance Armstrong that has surfaced recently has tainted professional cycling and Lance Armstrong’s reputation.

Armstrong’s charity, The Lance Armstrong Foundation, or Livestrong, which raises money to support cancer patients, is now the focus in the media and some donors are asking for their money back, saying the organization was created on a lie, by a fraud.

I have a different take on this.

The doping allegations are indeed serious and if true, paint a sad picture of the state of professional cycling. Armstrong should certainly be punished and his sporting achievements have been rightfully revoked.

But I don’t think these allegations should be used against the achievements that Lance has made outside of the sport – notably the work he has done with his charity.

Yes, it is awful that there was (perhaps is?) widespread doping in professional cycling. But if everyone is cheating, is it still cheating?

I care more about what Lance did with his fame than how he achieved it. If it wasn’t Lance who won those titles, somebody else would have, and I’m not so sure they wouldn’t also have been doping. I’m also not so sure that they would have given half as much back to society as Lance has.

There are countless athletes and celebrities out there who use their wealth and fame only for selfish pursuits and give very little back to society.

Lance started a small charity long before he achieved widespread international fame, and has dedicated himself to giving back to his community ever since. The organization has received top ratings in its ability to keep its overhead low and use its donations as efficiently as possible to support cancer patients.

To me, what a person becomes after they become rich is a good judgement of character.

Although Lance’s achievements in sport are no longer inspirational if the allegations are true, his commitment to giving back to society is.

I support Lance Armstrong outside of professional cycling because of everything he has done to help others, regardless of how he achieved his fame.

James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

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  • Alex Pline

    Congratulations for being able to see the duality in a flawed character. Most people are not able to separate Armstrong the “doper cyclist” and Armstrong “the good guy foundation starter”. They can exist and history is full of such flawed characters. No need to rehash any of this since it has been written about so extensively in the last couple weeks, but as one who feels “cheated” out of a great story (you reap what you sow), I see no reason to criticize anything about the foundation and I am glad sponsors, while dropping him as an athlete, have decided to keep sponsoring Livestrong.

  • Alex Pline

    Congratulations for being able to see the duality in a flawed character. Most people are not able to separate Armstrong the “doper cyclist” and Armstrong “the good guy foundation starter”. They can exist and history is full of such flawed characters. No need to rehash any of this since it has been written about so extensively in the last couple weeks, but as one who feels “cheated” out of a great story (you reap what you sow), I see no reason to criticize anything about the foundation and I am glad sponsors, while dropping him as an athlete, have decided to keep sponsoring Livestrong.

  • SueWithoutHelmet

    Wow! James, your post is uncanny – I’ve just answered a comment in a similar support vein to a reader on my blog who questioned my negative position on USADA. As I said to them, I don’t know whether he’s guilty
    or not – but neither do any of us, and I feel very anxious that whilst he continues
    to plead ‘not guilty’ and had no positive drug tests, the world has decided his current fate on the testimony of self-confessed drug users. I’m disappointed we’re
    relying so heavily on the Court of Public Opinion (heaven knows we’ve done that
    before here in Australia with catastrophic results).

    It’s poor form that
    we’ve decided he’s ‘guilty until proven innocent’ – it’s supposed
    to be the other way round in our common law countries.

  • SueWithoutHelmet

    Wow! James, your post is uncanny – I’ve just answered a comment in a similar support vein to a reader on my blog who questioned my negative position on USADA. As I said to them, I don’t know whether he’s guilty
    or not – but neither do any of us, and I feel very anxious that whilst he continues
    to plead ‘not guilty’ and had no positive drug tests, the world has decided his current fate on the testimony of self-confessed drug users. I’m disappointed we’re
    relying so heavily on the Court of Public Opinion (heaven knows we’ve done that
    before here in Australia with catastrophic results).

    It’s poor form that
    we’ve decided he’s ‘guilty until proven innocent’ – it’s supposed
    to be the other way round in our common law countries.

  • Agustin

    I also encourage his charity work and I don’t think that it should be stopped because of his recent charges/convictions/whatever, but the answer to your question, “But if everyone is cheating, is it still cheating?” is a strong and unequivocal yes. How could it not be?

  • Agustin

    I also encourage his charity work and I don’t think that it should be stopped because of his recent charges/convictions/whatever, but the answer to your question, “But if everyone is cheating, is it still cheating?” is a strong and unequivocal yes. How could it not be?

  • selkie

    I have no doubt that Lance was doping; but then I think pretty well most (if not all) of the others were too – so why single hm out? Probably becuase he is an obnoxious git – and has a big mouth – but that’s not a great reason in my view. LIke you, I believe he won the titles, doping aside. They may enhance but they don’t make the man entirely – I stopped judging professional athletes many moons ago when we threw Ben Johnson to the wolves and gave his medal to that asshole lewis- who had tested positvie more than once and aws later shown to have been doping – but NO one took it form him. I still feek guilty that we were so awful to Ben – and since then I have not watched the Olympics – at all.

  • selkie

    I have no doubt that Lance was doping; but then I think pretty well most (if not all) of the others were too – so why single hm out? Probably becuase he is an obnoxious git – and has a big mouth – but that’s not a great reason in my view. LIke you, I believe he won the titles, doping aside. They may enhance but they don’t make the man entirely – I stopped judging professional athletes many moons ago when we threw Ben Johnson to the wolves and gave his medal to that asshole lewis- who had tested positvie more than once and aws later shown to have been doping – but NO one took it form him. I still feek guilty that we were so awful to Ben – and since then I have not watched the Olympics – at all.

  • Bart Zed

    Thank you for sharing your views regarding the matter of Lance Armstrong.
    I do enjoy your blog and visit it often to read about different matters concerning cycling itself as well as cycling in Toronto. Being an avid cyclist and a resident of Toronto (currently out of the country, but soon returning) I really appreciate your effort in making cycling in our city much more pleasant. Having said that, I must admit that this article greatly disappointed me.

    In the recent weeks there has been an explosion of websites and articles related to cycling, but not necessarily to pro cycling where people try to share their opinions on the matter they do not know much about. You have admitted yourself that you do not follow pro cycling closely enough. And there is nothing wrong with sharing your opinions, but it becomes dangerous when people try to influence others’ point of view on matters they are not familiar with.

    Unfortunately, for people who do not follow pro cycling, the only source of information regarding Lance Armstrong comes from the main stream media. These sources, until very recently, were heavily biased. LA’s powerful army made sure that he was shown only in the positive light and there was no place for anything negative about him. Your blog has so many articles regarding main stream media and how they operate. Just imagine how much influence LA had over media having on his side such corporations like Nike, Trek or Oakley, for instance, to protect him and therefore their assets. However, there have always been alternative sources, but until recently were quite successfully kept quiet
    and only those who followed pro-cycling closely knew where and how to
    find them. I will list a couple of websites for anybody who would like
    to learn about pro cycling from other sources and not just the main stream such as cyclingnews.com. Please do not base your opinions on unfamiliar subjects solely on sources such as Toronto Star, for example, but try to see different views as well. You will discover then that LA was not only a cheat and a bully, but did/ does not care much about people with cancer, that what he did was to benefit him and him only, and how many people he destroyed during his career in order to maintain the image that he unlawfully created.

    Finally, I have been hearing many people say the same thing over and over again – “if everybody doped it was a leveled field of play and Lance Armstrong still is the champion”. I’m
    sorry to say it, but the matter is much more complicated. Once again
    this sort of opinion was created by the sources controlled by LA and it
    makes a perfect sense among those who are not familiar with pro cycling. In reality, there are many reasons why it was not a leveled field, but let me point just 2, but very important factors.

    1. Human bodies differ from one individual to the next and a reaction of each individual to drugs such us EPO, for example, is different. If we both race cleanly, you may be much faster than I am beating me every time we race. But if we both take the same amount of EPO under the same circumstances, I may be twice as fast as you are because it works on me much better than it does on your body.. This has been proven and openly discussed by many scientists both related and not to cycling.

    2. Doping in the 90s became a highly organized scheme. This meant that teams required full time doctors to monitor the drug taking as it became more dangerous than what it was in the 70s or 80s. This meant that doping became much more expensive.

    Besides that there were independent doctors such as Michele Ferrari (I am sure most readers here have come across this name in recent weeks) who were very good at what they did and sold their services to riders and whose services could only be afforded by crème de la crème.

    So as you can see the field was and still is far from being leveled.

    Now, having said all that, I must add that I have nothing against Livestrong and would love nothing less than more and more people supporting it, however, your article calls for supporting
    a liar and a bully and not an organization that helps people in need.
    Yes, it is possible to separate the two and everyone should. Support the
    organization and not the man who got there by cheating, bullying and most importantly destroying others pursuing his fame and money. And if you feel like supporting a cyclist, why don’t you concentrate your effort on supporting and spreading a word helping a former cyclist who has spent the last 20 years on fighting doping in pro cycling, but has very successfully been kept quiet by
    such people like LA. His name is Paul Kimmage. He’s been recently sued
    by UCI for voicing his negative opinion on the organization. Call that
    the freedom of speach.

    If I could recommend one book to read on the subject I would like to point you towards a book written by David Walsh titled “LA Confidentiel”. Now, David Walsh is not an admitted doper. He is just a journalist whose work has always been kept away from North American main stream media due to his views on how LA performed and got to the position he kept until very recently. Walsh has no financial gain from doing what he has been doing for many years other than his job as a journalist unlike many journalists and commentators who
    were financially tied to LA. As for the book, despite being a huge hit
    in Europe, it was never published in English to keep it away from North
    America and England. Strange isn’t it. That’s how powerful LA army was. Fortunately though, if you do not know
    French, there is an English copy floating on the net. To read about the book see this – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._A._Confidentiel

    If you prefer websites, please take a look at the following –
    http://inrng.com
    – this is a blog with a daily commentary on various matters concerning
    pro cycling. It is, of course, not a main stream media website and will
    never be as long as it maintains its objectivity. Unfortunately,
    that’s the world we live in.

    if you prefer podcast, try this.
    You can listen to very interesting discussions on various matters
    concerning pro cycling and LA.
    http://velocastcc.squarespace.com/race-radio/category/talk

    and one more – http://neilbrowne.com/ – here you will find articles and podcasts by another independent journalist.

    and there are many, many more

    In conclusion, please do not venture into the unknown waters, voice your opinion in public and try to influence others on matters that are not familiar to you. Being a cycling activist for the city of Toronto, Canada and even the world you are doing an amazing job. I wish there were more people like you in our city, but leave the subject of pro cycling to others. As for Livestrong, by all means, keep supporting it, write about it, donate your money to help fight cancer, but don’t tell people that in order to support Livestrong they must support Lance Armstrong. It’s just wrong.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Thank you for taking the time to make such a thorough and thoughtful comment. I appreciate the kind words that you have about my other posts outside of this one.

      The reason I felt comfortable with posting my thoughts on this topic without knowing much about pro cycling is because my post isn’t about pro cycling at all.

      My opinion on this topic is pretty simple, and I know not everyone will agree, and that is fine. But in my opinion, sports in general don’t really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. But saving lives and giving back to the community does matter.

      But having said that, you did say that Lance isn’t doing his charitable work for the greater good, but rather to promote his image. Fair enough, I suppose it is possible that he doesn’t care about giving back and is just doing it to promote his brand. I don’t know him personally, so I can’t say one way or another, and reading any news sources (alt sources or mainstream) to determine his motivations and whether he actually has compassion isn’t going to do much to help convince me.

      But having said all that, if all professional athletes and celebrities spent the last 15+ years doing charity work for shameless self-promotion, I think the world would be a better place for it regardless of their motivations for doing it. I would hope that they are doing it for reasons beyond their own PR, but even if they aren’t, they are still doing it, which is more than most athletes and celebrities can say for themselves.

      So that’s how I feel. I don’t think we will agree on this, but I hope you can at least see my perspective. I do value and respect your perspective on this too, and I will look at the news sources you provided anyway. I’m always open to looking at things from all angles.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Thank you for taking the time to make such a thorough and thoughtful comment. I appreciate the kind words that you have about my other posts outside of this one.

    The reason I felt comfortable with posting my thoughts on this topic without knowing much about pro cycling is because my post isn’t about pro cycling at all.

    My opinion on this topic is pretty simple, and I know not everyone will agree, and that is fine. But in my opinion, sports in general don’t really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. But saving lives and giving back to the community does matter.

    But having said that, you did say that Lance isn’t doing his charitable work for the greater good, but rather to promote his image. Fair enough, I suppose it is possible that he doesn’t care about giving back and is just doing it to promote his brand. I don’t know him personally, so I can’t say one way or another, and reading any news sources (alt sources or mainstream) to determine his motivations and whether he actually has compassion isn’t going to do much to help convince me.

    But having said all that, if all professional athletes and celebrities spent the last 15+ years doing charity work for shameless self-promotion, I think the world would be a better place for it regardless of their motivations for doing it. I would hope that they are doing it for reasons beyond their own PR, but even if they aren’t, they are still doing it, which is more than most athletes and celebrities can say for themselves.

    So that’s how I feel. I don’t think we will agree on this, but I hope you can at least see my perspective. I do value and respect your perspective on this too, and I will look at the news sources you provided anyway. I’m always open to looking at things from all angles.

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