Like most of America, I have to admit to watching at least some of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah last week. I’ve seen bits and pieces replayed on the news and watched videos of the interview on various websites around the internet.
Perhaps the most poignant moment for me was when Armstrong described the pain he felt while admitting to “doping” to his 13-year-old son.
As Armstrong explained, it was when he heard his oldest son, Luke, defending him that he knew he had to admit what he had done to him. Without a doubt that was likely the moment that Armstrong won over the hearts of many viewers but mine simply isn’t one of them.
Like Armstrong I have a 13-year-old son and can certainly understand how difficult that sort of admission of guilt must have been. The person, however, that my hearts breaks for isn’t Lance Armstrong but, instead, it is his son Luke.
There are a lot of kids that I feel sorry for since Armstrong has been found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs to help him win seven straight Tour de France titles.
Let’s face the facts. Whether you are a huge fan of bike racing or not, it was difficult to not get caught up in watching as an American athlete dominated the sport for years. Add the fact that Armstrong was a cancer survivor as well as a huge advocate for people fighting the deadly disease and he had all the makings of a true role model.
With that title, however, comes responsibility and, frankly, that’s where things fell apart. As a role model for both his children and ours, Armstrong failed at one very important task, honesty. He let all of his followers young and old down and, frankly, it will take a lot more than one confession to make up for it.
Yes, as parents we all make errors in judgment. In most of our cases they are simple ones that, unlike Armstrong's, don’t draw world attention. They are still, however, mistakes that we need to take responsibility for and own up to.
For years my son watched Armstrong compete in the Tour de France. He respected Armstrong as both an athlete and a philanthropist and proudly wore a “Livestrong” bracelet everywhere he went. Like many other young athletes he saw Armstrong as a fierce competitor who set the bar for others.
It’s that competitiveness, however, that no longer seems to sound as good as it used to.
I’ve heard a lot of people defend Armstrong by claiming that, since so many other riders were also suspected of doping, he had no choice but do so to stay competitive.
As a mom that not only bothers me, it scares me to death. Yes, I want my son to do his best and to give his all to everything he does but, at the same time, I want him to know when and where to draw the line.
Operating outside the law, breaking the rules and putting your own health at risk are, undoubtedly, where that line should be firmly set.
Without a doubt I can’t even begin to imagine the pressure Armstrong was under to remain a competitive athlete for all those years and, frankly, can’t judge him for the personal decisions he made.
What I can do, however, is use his failure to remind my son that abusing your body and lying about drug use is never the way to win a competition. The truth will always come out and, someday, you will find yourself having to confess to yourself, your loved ones and perhaps even the word.