Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace

Parker Fox, Editor-in-Chief

For a while, Lance Armstrong’s “deny, deny, deny” approach to the substance abuse question that has surrounded him since as early as the 1999 Tour de France appeared to be working.  But, as every teenager learns the hard way at some point, this approach eventually proves useless.  Nike, Armstrong’s biggest endorser, officially cut ties with the infamous cyclist and former cancer patient.  They cited “insurmountable evidence” that Armstrong did in fact use performance enhancing drugs earlier in his career to help him become the greatest cyclist the world has ever known.  Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.   

            Scandals in professional sports are so common that fans can hardly even be surprised anymore.  From drug use to adultery to night club self-inflicted gun shot wounds to the leg (not just you, Plaxico), the athletes that we all idolized as kids disappoint time after time.  Every scandal is different, and every scandal is handled differently by the athlete.  Tiger Woods didn’t even bother denying his infidelity, knowing it was no use.  Barry Bonds denied using human growth hormone to break Hank Aaron’s homerun record, but eventually realized he was caught and admitted to his crimes.  But Lance Armstrong, in spite of the sworn testimony of 26 witnesses, 11 of them former teammates, maintains his innocence.  The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a 1000 page report last week, filled with evidence that Armstrong used PEDs and justifying his ban from cycling.  Although Armstrong still claimed to be clean as recently as a week ago, he stepped down as chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which has raised millions for cancer research.  Perceiving this as an admission of guilt, Nike dropped Armstrong just moments later, as did his numerous other endorsers including Anheuser-Busch and Radio Shack.

            Financially, Armstrong’s refusal to come clean may have been the intelligent play.  He appeared in Michelob Ultra commercials all the way up to the release of the report last week, in spite of the outcry from the cycling community.  Had Armstrong come clean at any point before that report, he would have lost millions in endorsements and the money he makes through public speaking.  Perhaps he was just making as much as he could before, inevitably, the U.S. Ant-Doping Agency produced definite evidence. 

            Conversely, the years of lying may actually cost Armstrong.  The Tour de France has already demanded that he return over $3 million in winnings, and every single race he ever won may do the same.  In addition to the lost endorsements and return of winnings, Armstrong will face lawsuits.  Britain’s Sunday Times Newspaper plans to sue Armstrong for a libel lawsuit settled in 2006, in which Armstrong was paid 600,000 Euros in damages.  Other people/companies that were affected by Armstrong’s lies will surely take action. 

            In a world where O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony are “innocent,” Armstrong took a calculated risk by denying accusations that he used performance-enhancing drugs.  Only time will tell if the years of lying will have more of an impact than had he simply come clean years ago.