Last night we watched a 60 Minutes segment that featured an interview with Tyler Hamilton. Hamilton was one of Lance Armstrong’s teammates during the years of his Tour De France wins. Hamilton was recently forced to come forward and testify to what, if any, performance enhancement drug use was going on. Apparently they are gathering evidence to bring a case against Lance Armstrong.
Tyler Hamilton gave first hand accounts of plenty of drug use by all the major team members, including Lance. He, himself, decided to give back his Olympic Gold Medal because he didn’t feel he deserved it for his years of using enhancement drugs. I watched the interview, looking for indications that his story was a lie, but all I saw was someone surrendering and bringing to light something that had burdened them for years. Aside from getting the feeling that keeping the secret had been a burden, it also seemed telling it was the last thing he wanted to do. Tyler Hamilton is either a very loyal friend, wishing he didn’t have to be a rat, or he’s an excellent actor. I believed everything he said.
I never became a fan of Lance Armstrong. The yellow bracelet fad really bothered me. I know he’s a great athlete. I love that he beat cancer and helps that cause as he does. But I think our American culture took a man and turned him into a deity. He went beyond celebrity and icon to something more spiritual. And even as this story breaks there are people who will NEVER believe it because to them he is too high to fall.
But if he did cheat (and based on Tyler’s story, I think he did) what does that say about our culture? We try to teach our kids that “Cheaters never win and winners never cheat” but everywhere you look people are cheating and winning. It has happened in political elections, on Wall Street, on the baseball field, and in classrooms across the country. And when it comes to Armstrong, they let it slide. He was the cash cow for the sport of biking. I’d never even heard of the Tour De France before Lance Armstrong came onto the scene. Suddenly everyone was talking about something that most of them had never cared about before. Not only was it bad for Lance for the truth to come out, it was bad for the whole sport. He had to perform at his best and be clean to keep America falling in love with him and biking.
In recent history a lot of truth has come to light about individuals, industries, and organizations cheating or abusing their power. Does this mean we are beginning to shift the other way? If they do in fact prove that Lance Armstrong took performance enhancing drugs, will he go to jail? If he goes to jail will that finally convince us to stop making Gods of men and money? I believe in playing by the rules. It’s only the rules that keep people in bondage that are meant to be broken. The rules that teach us to be fair and respectful, should be followed by everyone-especially the people who are in the limelight, setting examples for our children!