Editorial: Lance’s dance

It's probably too late for Lance Armstrong to regain public's trust
Jan. 16, 2013 @ 11:53 PM

We Americans are a forgiving bunch. We usually try to see the good in people, and when they make a mistake and own up to it, we traditionally find a way to accept an apology and move on.

There are exceptions, though. You won’t find many people embracing a murderer when he says he’s sorry before heading off to prison. And when you have a made a career of denying allegations against you, to the point of suing those who say you cheated, then coming clean doesn’t make your former friends and admirers automatically fall in in love with you again.

Lance Armstrong was among the most beloved athletes in this country. His triumph over cancer, his win after win after win in the Tour de France bicycle race, and his commitment to raising money to fund cancer research made him a hero to many. When some accused him of doping to win those bike races, his fans rose to his defense. None louder than Armstrong himself, who consistently denied the charges and went after his accusers with the full force of lawyers and lawsuits.

Funny thing. Turns out he did cheat, that he was a liar. He did use performance enhancing drugs to improve his racing. He did lie under oath about doping. His confession to Oprah Winfrey this week that he did indeed use banned drugs and lied to everyone about it may be his way of asking forgiveness, but will it work?

It’s too late for many. His sins outweigh his good deeds. He ruined a lot of lives going after his perceived enemies, who in fact were telling the truth. A decade of lying to defend what we learn is a flawed record of achievement will not lead to forgiveness and embrace as he may want and for which he may hope.

Many athletes stand accused of using PEDs. The list is long and includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, track stars Ben Johnson and Marian Jones, and football star Shawn Merriman. All at one time or another denied the allegations and defended their record. However, Armstrong went too far. He carried his defense to an extreme the others did not, and he used a team of lawyers and some friends in high places to prove his point. At least for a while.

Americans are forgiving, but it seems unlikely they’ll rally to Lance Armstrong’s case and get his back this time. Too much time passed, too many people hurt, too many cries of wolf.