For seven years, Lance Armstrong was an American icon. A cancer survivor, seven (!) consecutive Tour de France titles, a foundation that became iconic and gave hope to cancer survivors all over. He was the embodiment of American resolve.
But then the accusations started. Slowly, at first, stories of Lance’s doping and using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s) started emerging and then began to gain steam. Teammates, friends, trainers and the like started leaking that this man rose to the top by dishonest means.
Years of testimonies, years of interviews and headlines, years of denials have brought us to this point, where Armstrong finally admitted to his doping to Oprah on Monday (according to the Associated Press). Finally, the drama, the suspicion and speculation have come to an end. We will see Thursday night the extent to which Armstrong comes clean, but one lesson is sitting in the rubble of all of this, begging to be learned by people everywhere:
Cover-ups always hurt worse than confession.
The first accusations of doping came toward the end of Armstrong’s 7-year run atop the Tour de France. Imagine the change in headlines if that happened. He would have been ousted from his titles, but the media firestorm that has persisted the last 7-8 years would have been avoided, the court trials, the lawsuits, the denials. To say, “this sport is running rampant with PED’s and I am sorry to say I fell to that very prevalent temptation.” Would have certainly been big news, but it would have ended there. Perhaps Armstrong could have become the poster boy for cleaning up cycling and helping the USADA perfect their testing methods (the same ones which Armstrong duped over 600 times). The situation would have been painful, but certainly much more easily redeemable than it ended up being.
Now Armstong has had a hard fall from grace, being stripped of his seven titles by the USADA, losing almost all of his sponsors, being ousted from his own LIVESTRONG foundation. Most importantly, dozens and dozens of relationships have been broken. This is the reality of dishonesty.
That very first denial starts an avalanche. It starts us down a path of self-preservation at all costs. With each cascading lie, what could have been a simple lapse of judgment became a growing act of deceit for the sake of reputation. The denials had to get louder and stronger. People were taken to court, threatened and cast aside if they even suggested that Lance had ever seen doping in cycling. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports chronicles just a few of the more deplorable intimidation tactics Armstrong and his team used to keep the truth from emerging.
This is a truth that we all tell our kids and those young people over whom we have influence, but to have this boldness in our own lives — to face consequences because it is the right thing — is much harder than it sounds. We all want to point at Armstrong and say, “I would have done the right thing. I would have told the truth.” But the fact of the matter is, most of us are under much less pressure than Armstrong was, and even still honesty is hard to maintain.
Every day, there are folks that want to live a moral life but have fallen to temptation, only to deny allegations and make things appear on the surface as if everything is OK. People steal money from their jobs, are unfaithful in marriages, cheat on tests, falsify tax information, or just lie to a friend about why they don’t want to hang out. We are all dishonest in some regard, and lies almost always start with a “the truth would hurt too much mentality.” But by dragging out our cover-up schemes, we end up hurting people more than we would have originally.
The truth might have hurt. But now there’s the truth and the reality of all the broken relationships and broken trust. Notice the truth still came out.
Solomon said it this way, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Proverbs 11:3) It is so much easier to live a life guided by integrity than under the oppression of duplicity. My hope and prayer is that we would learn from this and boldly live in repentance and confession with one another, that we would humble ourselves and live by integrity.
What do you think about Lance Armstrong and his Confession?