caught a glimpse of a poster depicting Lance Armstrongâa cancer survivorâon his bicycle. She immediately asked for pictures of the athlete to be displayed in ...
Stefan Casso Professor Ruszkiewicz RHE 325M April 10, 20-Worth the Lie At age 64, Barbara Grossman was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. With no family to help her face her upcoming struggles, Barbara was scared. She would presumably spend the remainder of her life alone in a hospital bed without any emotional support. Then, just as she began giving up hope, a ray of light pierced the abyss. In an adjacent hospital room, Barbara had caught a glimpse of a poster depicting Lance Armstrong—a cancer survivor—on his bicycle. She immediately asked for pictures of the athlete to be displayed in her room as well. After months of treatment and countless rounds of chemotherapy, Barbara’s cancer went into remission. In a letter to Armstrong, as reported by ESPN’s Brian Triplett, Barbara wrote, “I spent minutes, hours, weeks, and months getting inspiration from your pictures…I was wondering if it would be possible to shake your hand and say thank you personally for the inspiration you gave me in fighting this dreaded disease called cancer!” Browsing through a wide range of Lance Armstrong-related articles from early in this century, I discovered Barbara’s account is not atypical. I found countless stories of cancer victims expressing gratitude towards Armstrong. Some attribute their recovery entirely on the inspiration they got from his uplifting story. Armstrong, diagnosed with testicular cancer at 25, overcame all odds not only to beat the disease but also to become the greatest cyclist of all time. He soared to the top of his profession, winning seven straight Tour de Frances– a grueling race spanning 21 days and covering 2,000 miles. As a result of his amazing performances, Lance
Armstrong stole the heart of millions, including my own, and became a living hero. But as is the case with many people placed high upon a pedestal, he fell back to earth. Hard. After a decade of fervently denying the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Armstrong finally admitted on January 17, 2013, that he had. Human growth hormone, testosterone, cortisone, and blood transfusions were part of his doping regimen, a common practice for the vast majority of cyclists in the early 2000s. His defamation suits against former friends like Frankie Andreu, who testified to hearing Armstrong speak of using banned substances, and hostile attacks against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for its public suspicions were all just an elaborate charade. One big fat lie. I’m not here to defend Armstrong’s inexplicable cheating. Rules are rules. But do I believe his lie was worth the subsequent backlash? In this rare case, does the end justify the means? Absolutely. Today on lancesupport.org, people are leaving comments of encouragement for Lance Armstrong. There are pages and pages of commentaries dated after his admission on January 17. And many of them had me on the verge of tears. For these people, Lance Armstrong is not a fraud, he’s a hero: Your story gave me hope and gave me confidence that cancer can be beat.” —Kim. “Reading your book gave us courage to carry on … discussing the Tour everyday with Dad kept him going.” —Sonia. “I am a cancer survivor and you were giving me courage when I needed it most…my hero forever.” —Celou Comment upon comment tells stories of how Armstrong delivered hope when all seemed lost. His inspiring story provided cancer patients the courage to undergo painful treatments and the confidence to stay optimistic. It brought comfort to victim’s families who could dream of a
day when their loved one too could return to strength. His story even illustrated to people with no connection to cancer how perseverance and hard work could culminate in dreams. Armstrong had touched these people’s lives, and nothing could now take that away. In 2007, USA Today ranked Lance Armstrong as the 8th most influential person in the world over the past 25 years– beating the likes of Michael Jordan, Nelson Mandela, and Pope John Paul II. After undergoing testicular cancer, his merely riding a bike around a park would have been inspirational; so it’s clear why winning the Tour de France seven consecutive times raised him to rock-star levels. If he had confessed to taking performance-enhancing drugs after his first win, however, his influence would’ve been exponentially smaller. He would’ve given false hope to his fans and further diminished cancer victims’ dreams of making full recoveries. People would’ve been left to look for a hero elsewhere. Maybe they never would’ve found him or her. Though it evolved from his lie, without Armstrong’s inspiration, we might have lost people like Kim, Celou, and Sonia’s dad from the disease. Despite with his lies (or maybe because of them), Lance Armstrong saved lives through his work with the Livestrong Foundation, launched in 2003. That year marked the fourth Tour de France win for Lance Armstrong. This same year he was given the Outstanding Male Athlete Award by the ESPYs, an annual award show hosted by ESPN. Armstrong’s fame and influence had reached an all-time high. It marked the perfect time to launch his foundation, which hit the ground running. Millions of dollars poured in, and the Livestrong Foundation quickly became a nation-wide institution for cancer information and support. The Livestrong Foundation “unites, inspires, and empowers people affected by cancer.” The foundation provides support to families dealing with the consequences of cancer. Foundation members provide one-on-one dialogue with victims to insure their attitudes remain
strong and positive. Unity, they believe, is the key to fighting the disease. Additionally, the Livestrong Foundation aims at enhancing knowledge about cancer. It hosts numerous awarenessspreading events across the country, resulting in plentiful donations that go directly to cancer research. With total revenue of close to 36 million in 2011, the Livestrong Foundation has established itself as one of the leading cancer-support foundations in the world. Most fully developed line of argument focuses on legacy of Armstrong’s Livestrong foundation. As was the case with the inspiration Armstrong offered cancer victims, had he confessed to using banned substances early on in his career, all of this charitable work would be erased. He simply would not have had the money, prominence, or backing to create Livestrong. Moreover, it is important to note how Armstrong chose to spend his money. He could have easily kept it all, bought himself five beach houses, and tried his luck at becoming a movie star. Instead, Armstrong used his fame and fortune to give back to the community, much as John D. Rockefeller did– a perceived villain in his own time. In the early 1900s, Rockefeller, owner of Standard Oil, was among the most hated entrepreneurs in America because of his monopolistic business methods. He eventually became the richest man America had ever produced. Like Armstrong, Rockefeller chose to use his riches not only for himself but also for noble purposes. He created the Rockefeller Foundation to promote public heath and the General Education Board to support education in impoverished areas. According to the Rockefeller Archive Center, his charitable donations reached over $540 million dollars. Rockefeller is now remembered as much as a philanthropist as a businessman— and one of the most respected men in American history. And soon Lance Armstrong may be reconsidered too, a man who, despite his faults, made a real difference in the world.
Lance Armstrong will have his critics. The way in which he deceived his sport, his fans, and his country is tough for anyone to defend. But ultimately, one should look at the results of it all. Armstrong’s lies led to lives being saved, whether it was through his inspiration or his foundation. Armstrong will forever be remembered for his contributions to society—if not by the masses, then at least by the cancer survivors and victims’ families that he touched. Armstrong’s lie was undoubtedly worth it. The end did justify the means.
Works Consulted “John D. Rockefeller, 1839-1937.” Rockefeller Archive Center. rockarch.org. np. nd. 10 Apr. 2013. Web. Livestrong Foundation. Livestrong.org. np. nd. 17 Mar. 2013. Web. “Messages of Support.” Lancesupport.org. np. nd. 17 Mar. 2013. Web. “Most Influential People.” USA Today. np. 9 Sept. 2007. 17 Mar. 2013. Web. Triplett, Brian. “Inspirations of Lance.” ESPN.com. np. 25 July 2004. 17 Mar. 2013. Web.