If ignorance is bliss then the “60 Minutes” film studio must be the least blissful place on Earth.
Over the the last 44 years the iconic news show has uncovered more dirt than John Deere’s tractors, but in so doing it has scratched the luster of many well-known and respected individuals. Greg Mortenson recently got the treatment. He’s the author of “Three Cups of Tea” and the founder of the now-famous nonprofit that built girls schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Or maybe he didn’t, according to the show.
That was hard enough to take, but last week’s show was a shot across the bow for many of us who dared to believe in miracles. That particular show targeted Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, philanthropist, founder of the Livestrong cancer foundation, toast of Texas and inspiration to legions of fans worldwide. Me included.
What years of hearsay, scores of French journalists, and thousands of tests failed to prove–that Lance Armstrong used outlawed performance enhancement drugs and blood-doping to cheat in his sport–seemed a bitter fact at the conclusion of this incisive yet cursed episode. Tyler Hamilton’s first hand account, following a grand jury subpoena, had the solid ring of truth.
I was one of those who read Armstrong’s books, followed his career and scoffed at the idea that a champion such as he would stoop to doping. At each stage of his many races we would watch him receive his blood test results–negative , or so we were told–with a look of “I told you so” that he kept until he crossed the final finish line at the Champs-Elysees.
But if you listen closely to Lance’s many denials of doping, there were clues.
In response to a direct question on doping, he once responded that “We’ve passed thousands of tests.”
When asked about Floyd Landis’ assertion that Lance and his team doped, he replied “I like our credibility better than his.”
These are exactly the type of deceptive answers police investigators look for when interviewing criminal suspects. Since outright lying is really tough to pull off, providing answers that somehow avoid the negative, switch up the question, and can be answered truthfully can be delivered with conviction and even a hint of outrage.
Lance’s responses just don’t answer the questions, and in hindsight it seems like his answers were as well coached as his cycling. Perhaps he was just a natural at both.
Still there will be many of us who choose to look beyond this most human of failings to see the brilliance of Armstrong’s incredible successes. He has repeatedly chosen to downplay his many victories on the racing circuit while touting his success as a cancer survivor. He has taken comparatively few opportunities to cash in on his fame relative to the efforts he has made to advance his Livestrong foundation. Maybe over the course of time Lance’s success as a champion against cancer will eclipse his cycling successes.
That’s what I will cling to as I bid farewell to the heroic and miraculous string of victory’s in Armstrong’s fairytale cycling career.
In the meantime, Lance, this * is for you.