|Lance Armstrong's legacy will now be forever a lying villain.|
There was always a suspicion in people's minds about Armstrong, and with allegations flying thick and fast even during his racing days, and doping being quite common in the sport, I doubt many people are shocked by this. But I'm sure many people feel let down by him.
Lance's story according to a Nike ad used to be, perseverance, dedication and hard work. In his own words in the ad, Armstrong says, "Everybody wants to know what I am on… What am I on? I’m on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?" But that wasn't the story. The story was that he was on plenty more than just his bike and these had various names ranging from steroids, testosterone to EPO and growth hormones. Lance's story in a nutshell about an ambitious man who in the quest to win, sold his soul much like the famous Dr. Faust. And it was the same attributes that he was shown in the Nike ad - perseverance, dedication and hard work, that made sure that he got away with it for so long.
Cheating has been part of sports since it's humble beginnings, when two naked men used to run against each other. Winning is what sports is all about, and I strongly believe that there is no point taking part if you are not playing to win. However there are lines that are well set that one must not only respect but also never cross. Those boundaries have little meaning for people like Lance who want to win at any cost and this is where the problem is. Cheating will always continue to remain in sports as long as there is a winner and a loser, and the incentive to be a winner (or a loser by under performing as is often the case in cricket) is there.
Despite stripping Armstrong of his medals and title, the question still remains if justice has been done. Can all the fame, recognition and glory he received based on a lie over another deserving winner till now be ever retracted? What about the fortunes he made? UCI has decided that the 7 Tour de Frances that Lance won will not have a first place. Is that now really fair to Alex Zülle who finished second in 1999, or Jan Ullrich in 2000 or the other five second place winners? They all have been denied what Armstrong received all these days and will be denied for the rest of their lives. And finally is it fair to the fans who romanticized the idea of Lance as a super hero?
This is where governing bodies of sports should be careful. There are always bound to be cheaters playing, and we've had our fair share in cricket. It's not really fair to pull up a player long after his playing/racing days are done and erase his records (something which is not very feasible in a game like cricket as Graeme Wright explains - "Where do you stop? Where do you start?...Salim Malik is in the list of Five Cricketers of the Year. Do we take him out? If we take his scores out, where does that leave all those matches he played? Do you take runs away from teams, wickets away from bowlers? It's impossible.") It is a harsh punishment but doesn't serve full justice. The player warrants much more for bringing the game to disrepute. As Rob Steen, the senior lecturer of sports journalism at the University of Brighton writes that perhaps in those cases, we can put an asterisk next to their name with a footnote with the word, 'cheat'. This will certainly make sure that their name lives on forever tarnished in the records, their legacies are destroyed and they are remembered for their villainy.
Coming to cricket now, we've had our fair share of cheaters in the sport. The latest allegations that even umpires might be involved are distressing no doubt, and the verdict is still out on whether the ICC is powerful enough to tackle this menace and more importantly punish the cricketers accordingly. I was disappointed when the ICC decided to hand just small, lenient bans on the Pakistan trio who were caught red-handed spot-fixing. I strongly believe that Amir, Asif and Butt deserved life bans and the ICC failed to do that. How else does one write the lesson that 'it's not okay to lie your way to the very top as long as you don't get caught' in stone without taking some strict decisions? Cricket's guardian sure can take a leaf out of this incident and understand that there is truly no place for cheaters in sports. No place whatsoever.
Amir, Asif and Butt may not have taken performance enhancing drugs, but they nevertheless cheated, and lied openly, all the while having a big wide smile on their faces. Armstrong did all that. He cheated everyone, including himself and now he pays the price for his sins.