Editorial: The tragedy of Lance Armstrong's disgrace
The doping case against Lance Armstrong is beyond disappointing. It is shocking, it is damning, it is powerful -- and on Wednesday the United States Anti-Doping Agency spelled out the evidence for his disgrace in remarkably blunt language.
The achievements of the U.S. Postal Service pro cycling team, which Armstrong led, were accomplished through a massive team doping scheme more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history, the USADA declared.
The evidence is overwhelming -- in excess of 1,000 pages -- says the USADA. It includes sworn testimony from 26 people, among them, 15 riders with knowledge of the USPS team, documenting payments, emails, scientific data and lab-test results proving the use, possession and distribution of performance-enhancing drugs by Armstrong, the organization asserts. And it confirms the "disappointing truth" about the "deceptive activities" of the USPS Team, which received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars.
Already gone are Armstrong's record seven Tour de France titles. Gone is his claim to credibility. And gone is his status as a singular American hero who not only survived cancer but dominated the impossibly strenuous world of competitive cycling.
His reputation lies in shreds.
Not only was he a flagrant cheat, says the USADA, he was a liar and a bully who pushed his teammates to dope.
More than a dozen friends, teammates and former team employees confirm fraudulent conduct that extended over a decade, leaving no doubt that most of Armstrong's career was fueled by doping, according to the report. For the millions who idolized him, these details must be an especially cruel blow.
His story, for many, was inspirational proof that with superhuman discipline and never-say-die stamina, survival was always possible, whether on a racecourse or in a hospital. He started the Livestrong Foundation, which has raised $470 million to fight cancer.
Today his story is a reminder that, as a species, we're incorrigibly flawed and vulnerable to more shortcomings than the human mind can imagine -- as if we needed to be reminded.
Could Armstrong ever redeem himself? Maybe.
But first he has to stop the denials and own up. It's impossible to parse the 202-page USADA report and not consider him profoundly discredited. Lance Armstrong was not just a small-time corner-cutter, from the available evidence, but an ardent and accomplished cheater.
His kind of behavior is not countenanced in sports, in business, in personal dealings or in life, and he aggressively pulled others into his dishonest world.
And yet, there has always been an indomitable spirit about him. He has endured, if not as an athlete, at least as a person who has looked death squarely in the face and prevailed.
A Lance Armstrong with a cautionary message of regret, combined with some honest reflections about courage, perseverance and human frailties, might someday provide a substantial public service.
But for now, we'll have to wait for contrition.