Friday, January 18, 2013

Lance Armstrong - The Picture

Arrogant.  Jerk. Narcissistic. A Bully.  Just some of the adjectives Lance Armstrong used to describe himself and his actions, during the two-part, tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey.

After watching part one yesterday I was tempted to write about it - tempted like the rest of the world to give an opinion.  To judge. I decided to wait until after having watched part 2 tonight before voicing any opinion on the matter.  The confession.

During the interview a few things became clear to me. I question the term confession. Can one truly confess after one has been caught?  Truthfully, the world knew about the doping long before the interview was ever even taped. So to me the entire thing was really just admitting that he had lied for all of these years when the truth came out originally.

I will admit that I do feel for Lance Armstrong and I'm confident that I am in the slim minority. During the first half of the interview when Lance described the picture he had painted himself into. 7 time winner of the Tour de France. Cancer survivor. Founder of the Livestrong Foundation. His wife. Children. Quite the pretty picture. Quite the pedestal he had managed to finagle himself onto. But in the harsh light of reality, as Lance himself said - the picture was false.

It seems to me that the more fictional the picture - the more fiercely you defend it. Truth can be tested. Falsehood cannot.  And when a false picture is held under the microscope it quickly becomes clear that the once thought fine oil painting is really a paint by numbers water-color.

And once you follow the numbers, you realized that the entire image was mapped out. It was a collection of half truths strung together to formulate the image we all wanted to believe.

For me, this was the point in which Lance was no longer the cycling hero. He was no longer the philanthropic cancer crusader. He was no longer the raised bar that athletes spent lifetimes striving to reach. He was just a guy. He was human.  He was stripped down before the entire world to witness his fall from grace.  This, for me, was a bit sad.

Over the course of the interview Oprah revisited the facts over the past years.  How Lance bullied people and lashed out. Indeed suing people who dared to speak the truth.  Deny, deny, deny.  This was his story and he was sticking to it! Stomping anyone and everyone who dared to stand up against 'the picture'.  In listening to the words from the man ... I can actually understand his lashing out.  I can understand his necessity to defend the picture - to the death. And I believe he would have continued to do so, had it not been for his 13y/o son Luke, who did what every kid would do; defended his dad.

It was clear to me - and I hope to everyone else watching part 2 of the interview that when Lance spoke of the moment he had to face his son - to confess to his son ... who had never once questioned his dad's guilt or innocence - the pain in his eyes was genuine.  As a parent, I recognized that pain. I recognized the ache when he spoke of telling his son not to defend him anymore.  Instructing his son to simply say "My dad says he is sorry."

It was also clear to me that despite the bullying, the arrogance, the jerk Lance may have been over the course of his career and beyond, that when it came to his children - his family ... his conscious was real.  When he spoke of his mother, and the toll this had taken on her.  His remorse was clear.  Remorse for how his actions impacted his family.  The few pieces of the puzzle which were the heart of his truth.

At the moment when Lance had to confess to his son, he knew then that this day was inevitable. That the only natural next step would be to admit the falsehood of the picture.

I think as human beings, we are comprised of many puzzle pieces, which together make our own picture. Some parts of the picture are prettier than others. Some parts of our lives are more attractive than other parts. But the majority of us, who walk in day-to-day normal lives are never held under the microscope of the world's eyes. The world's judgement. Few of us will ever sit opposite Oprah to confess our sins.  But how many of us could? How many of us would throw away a few of those puzzle pieces if we could? Or paint over them. Were it that simple.

Certainly when I look back over my life, there are things which I am glad would never make the front pages of the newspapers.  Grateful that I live beneath Oprah's radar.  Blessed that my normal life - the good and the bad ... the growth ... is not up for public scrutiny.

One thing I do hope is that when the world judges Lance Armstrong for his falsehood.  His lies. His imperfect picture. That they do so while being mindful of what the headlines would look like if the cameras were on them.  Because the truth of the matter is that if you are prone to bad judgments and you are in a position of stature - your bad judgments are on a much grander scale than when you are just the average Joe.  

I want to also remind people that there is universal balance, ying and yang ... and Lance is no different. Yes, he did horrible things - primarily to himself - peripherally to those around him.  And yes, in his attempts to conceal the truths - he attacked.  And no, I am not attempting to sweep that under the rug. Clearly what he did was horrible.  And the magnitude of what he did I'm sure will weigh on him for years to come.

With that said, I want to also acknowledge the good Lance did in the creation of Livestrong and the millions of funds raised for cancer awareness.  All of the good that the foundation has done cannot be overlooked.  Nor should it be grouped together with the unfortunate choices Lance made surrounding his cycling career.

With having lost my own father to cancer this past year, and being a two-time survivor of cancer myself, I hope that people will remember the good that the Livestrong foundation has done and continues to do for those who are battling for their lives - and the support given to their loved ones.

I hope we all remember that to err is human - to forgive is divine. I hope we all look at our own picture before we quickly judge a man who has been left hanging for choices made in one facet of his life - while doing so much good for others with the same breath.

Following part 1 of the interview last night, Livestrong released the following statement.  

“We at the LIVESTRONG Foundation are disappointed by the news that Lance Armstrong misled people during and after his cycling career, including us. Earlier this week, Lance apologized to our staff and we accepted his apology in order to move on and chart a strong, independent course. We look forward to devoting our full energy to our mission of helping people not only fight and survive cancer, but also thrive in life after cancer.

Even in the wake of our disappointment, we also express our gratitude to Lance as a survivor for the drive, devotion and spirit he brought to serving cancer patients and the entire cancer community. Lance is no longer on the Foundation’s board, but he is our founder and we will always be grateful to him for creating and helping to build a Foundation that has served millions struggling with cancer.

The LIVESTRONG Foundation is one of the most highly-rated and effective cancer organizations in the United States. Our success has never been based on one person – it’s based on the patients and survivors we serve every day, who approach a cancer diagnosis with hope, courage and perseverance. We listened to their needs and took action to create free cancer support services that offer access to clinical trials, fertility preservation, insurance coverage and even transportation to treatment. People living with and through cancer are the inspiration behind our work. They have been, are and always will be our focus.”