I’ve been thinking about brands lately, and the sports world is full of fascinating brands–take a look at Payton Manning, who is coming back after three neck surgeries, risking his health for one more year of glory.
And then there’s the catastrophic fall from grace that is Lance Armstrong. It’s taken a decade to bust him, but he finally capitulated. The allegations of ingestion of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) have caught up with him.
Despite numerous testimonials from teammates who have witnessed his shooting up over the years, authorities have not been able to prove that he was juicing. But Armstrong apparently has wearied of this battle and, while not exactly admitting to cheating, he is no longer fighting the charges. This resolution leaves us with some doubt–it’s not as if he was caught with a syringe in his hand, and if he really is innocent, the ongoing effort to prove his guilt is a tragedy.
The consequences? With his admission of guilt, he will lose his seven Tour de France championship awards, a bronze Olympic medal, assorted other medals, endorsements and sponsorship money.
Armstrong has been a hero to so many people, not only for his superhuman athletic achievements, but for beating testicular cancer and spearheading a foundation that raises millions of dollars to cure this disease. Many people continue to think that he’s innocent, the victim of a witch hunt. There’s some momentum that he will rise above this, and he may.
But I happen to believe that cheating in any sport is an insult to all of those athletes who work hard and play by the rules. I also believe that all of our superstar athletes have a responsibility to become role models–people who inspire us and help us aspire to a high level of achievement. These days, I don’t think we an afford to lose even one.