I’d like to introduce you to my latest venture. A podcast series that you can find here entitled Citizens of Sport, with the first one being with one of the most polarising figures in world sport – Lance Armstrong.
As I mention in my introductory remarks to the podcast, people either love him or hate him.
As the host of the podcast, I’m just asking the questions; I don’t give a view. But I think there is a perspective to the entire Lance Armstrong saga that deserves consideration.
For me, there are two components. The first is the doping and the second is how he dealt with it once he was exposed.
I got involved in sports governance issues in the first place because of cycling. With other like-minded people such as David Walsh, Paul Kimmage and Greg Lemond, I started Change Cycling Now because we knew that there was something very wrong in the way the sport was managed.
Listening to what Lance had to say in this podcast reminded me of these issues.
There is no doubt that it is only right and proper that Lance is held to account for what he did. But let’s not kid ourselves that he was the only one in cycling who was doping. In fact, as the poster boy of the sport for so long, Lance was a symptom of a much deeper malaise in world cycling.
It included the systematic doping regimes of individuals, teams and the official ‘turning of a blind eye’ by cycling and anti-doping authorities.
It reminds me also of how Ben Johnson was singled-out and scapegoated in the Olympic movement in 1988. It is now acknowledged that at least six men in that infamous 100 metres dash were doping – including the eventual winner, Carl Lewis – but only one became the sport’s whipping-boy and suffered.
Whether it be Ben or Lance or anyone else, it’s a relatively easy thing to ban one athlete.
It is quite another to get the sport of cycling right. And, of course, not just cycling but also athletics, football and Olympic sports. How sport is governed is, in my view, the number one issue in world sport.
The second matter is how Lance dealt with his wrongdoing.
It’s tough for anyone to admit they’ve done wrong. Even more so when so much is at stake commercially. It took him a while – there are critics of Lance who say it took too long, that he wasn’t contrite enough and that he bullied some people he felt betrayed him – but he did eventually ‘tell all’ in a confession to Oprah more than four years ago.
However, when Lance told Oprah that he did what he had to, to stay competitive, he told the truth. And that gets back to my earlier point.
Yes, Lance doped and he shouldn’t have. But world cycling knew it and allowed it. Not just with him, but many others.
In the ensuing years, Lance has made efforts to reach out to people who he has wronged. He has had time to reflect on right and wrong and what, if anything he would have done differently. Much of that revolves around how he has dealt with the people in his life.
I’ve written many times in this blog about redemption. If there is a person alive who has nothing in their past that they’re embarrassed, if not mortified, by I expect I could count them on one hand.
I believe Lance Armstrong when he says he is trying to right the wrongs, lead a better life, and be a better man. When it all boils down to what counts, isn’t that what all of us are trying to do?
There’s some other podcasts ahead with terrific people including Greg Louganis and Anthony Mundine.
I hope you enjoy listening to our Citizens of Sport podcast series.