Say it isn’t so, my heart cried out in protest, when I absorbed the recent headlines about Lance Armstrong’s decision to stop fighting allegations of doping. You see, I never really believed the rumors before. It seemed impossible that a man who has inspired millions of people to push past their limits and raised over $300 million to fight cancer could be guilty of those charges. Then I kept on reading and found the penalties he could receive – the loss of all seven tour de France titles and a lifetime ban on competing – to be equally shocking.
I know Armstrong said he felt the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s process was unfair and that it was time to drop the fight and focus on his family. But here’s the conundrum…how could a man who never gave up in competition or while challenged with cancer at a young age stop trying to clear his name? I’ve handled a lot of crisis situations for clients over the past 20 years in my “day job” as a strategic communications consultant. And if you’re not guilty, it’s better to keep protesting until you’re blue in the face rather than give up.
Even the most talented people can make bad decisions. Like Elton John, who has no problem slamming Madonna, Bill Joel or any other celeb who has pissed him off in whatever public forum he can muster. Oprah was thought to be invincible in business before she launched her network, which has low ratings and is hemorrhaging cash. The respective decisions of those aforementioned, gifted individuals don’t chip away at their core talents. When it comes to Lance Armstrong though, I expected great sportsmanship to be at his core. Now I’m left wondering if he became so focused on winning that Armstrong forgot how you play the game is even more important.
What are your thoughts on this situation? Do you feel his punishment was too harsh or completely justified? How will this impact the legacy of Lance Armstrong moving forward?