The public wanted a hero. What we got was Lance Armstrong. Did we get what we deserved?
In his interview with Oprah Winfrey, the disgraced cyclist admitted to being a liar, a “jerk” and an “arrogant prick,” and conceded that “all the blame falls on me.” But was the public’s demand for a perfect fairytale also in part to blame?
Armstrong’s answers to Winfrey’s questions hinted at the notion that all the doping, cheating and lying he committed over the years was perhaps as much for the benefit of those who believed in him as it was for his own hunger for glory.
“This story was so perfect for so long … It’s just this mythic, perfect story and it wasn’t true,” Armstrong said.
He also acknowledged he didn’t think it would have been possible to win the Tour de France seven times without using banned substances to enhance his performance.
Given the weight of having to live up to his heroic image as a sports champion who not only beat cancer but thrived, is it a wonder that Armstrong felt pressured to maintain the façade at all cost?
In one part of the interview, Winfrey asked about how fame affected him, adding that fame magnifies a person’s character, so that a jerk becomes a bigger jerk, while a humanitarian becomes a bigger humanitarian.
“I’d say I was both – and we saw both,” Armstrong said. “And now we’re seeing certainly more of the jerk part than the activist, the humanitarian, philanthropist, the leader of the [Livestrong] foundation. We’re seeing that now. I am flawed, deeply flawed.”
And in all likelihood, he was flawed from the start. Did our desire to think the best of him blind us to the less savoury parts of his character, which have only recently bubbled to the surface?
Armstrong said he had a “ruthless desire to win,” which “serves me well on the bike, served me well during the disease.” For years, that aggressive winner’s mentality also served him well in the public’s opinion – at least until he got caught.
Although there are many who are left disillusioned by Armstrong’s fall from grace and who will never forgive him, some are still wanting to keep at least part of the “mythic, perfect story” alive, even if it was a fallacy.
“My friend is one of many, many people that Armstrong has helped and been an inspirational figure for,” actor Emile Hirsch wrote on The Huffington Post. “So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Jack Osborne, son of rocker Ozzy Osborne, also came to Armstrong’s defence on Twitter.
“Honestly I don’t care that Lance doped. He gave people hope and that’s more then [sic] anything. So what if he lied. #livestrong,” he tweeted, according to The Daily Mail.
Does our desire for heroes outweigh our appetite for the truth?