Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What Lance Armstrong's Admission Teaches Our Kids

I lost my dad to cancer.  I lost my mother-in-law to cancer.  My mom is a cancer survivor.  My father-in-law is a cancer survivor.  I wear a yellow Livestrong band on my wrist to remember the family members I’ve lost to the disease and those that have beaten it.  That’s what has made this last week so hard for me when Lance Armstrong admitted that he used performance enhancing drugs during his career and had vehemently denied it when accused by fellow riders and colleagues.  I have to admit that I chose to ignore the media that called us crazy for believing him (where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire).  I thought that these were just jealous people looking to bring down a national hero, cancer survivor, activist, and all-around good guy.  Nope.

As I have started to pull myself together, my thoughts have turned to how this affects the kids we all interact with daily.  Some would argue that no one under the age of 20 follows cycling.  Most probably don’t know who Lance Armstrong is.  If they don’t, they will because our mainstream media has inundated us with his story.  Kids are hearing how he successfully cheated his way to the top, buried anyone that spoke out against him, strong armed those that said they have evidence of his guilt and continued to build the conglomerate that is Lance Armstrong.  National hero, cancer survivor, activist, and all-around good guy.  Nope

We tell our kids that cheaters never win.  Except Lance.  We tell them that if they lie then they are bad people.  Armstrong built a cancer awareness conglomerate.  We tell them to treat people the way they would want to be treated.  Unless you’re guilty and want to keep people from proving it.  We encourage our kids to own up to mistakes when they make them to free their conscience.  So long as you wait until the statute of limitations runs out.

And then there is the whole Livestrong foundation to consider.  How do we separate the man from the mission?  How do we distinguish between wearing yellow to support cancer awareness but that we don’t wear it to support Armstrong?  My five year old son has never seen me without a yellow band on my wrist.  What will he say if I take it off?  “Dad, don’t you care about losing Pappaw any more?”  “No son, it’s just that I don’t want people to think I support the man who created the band.”  Can we teach kids that those are separate things?

Stuart Scott, anchor for ESPN, was recently diagnosed with cancer for the third time.  In an article by USA Today (, Scott says that, “(Armstrong's) efforts that affected millions of people with cancer is his legacy. And you're not going to argue me off that."  I can’t bring myself to readily agree with him.  My dad admired Lance Armstrong yet never watched a Tour De France in his life.  I think he found comfort knowing that here was a man who beat cancer and wanted to help others beat it as well.  I don’t know what my dad would think if he were here.  Betrayed?  That would be my guess.  Scott doesn’t feel betrayed but how many do?  

I can’t bring myself to take the band off but feel like I’m disingenuous by leaving it on.  Maybe Armstrong felt the same way all of these years.  The yellow jerseys on his body a shackle keeping him from telling the truth.  Maybe that’s what our kids can learn from this whole ordeal.  Dishonesty, deceit, unethical behavior may allow you to prosper in the short-term but it becomes the prison that holds your soul captive.