LANCE ARMSTRONG STRIPPED OF HIS SEVEN TOUR DE FRANCE TITLES.
I once saw the backside of Lance Armstrong during the 2003 Paris time trials. Of course the riders whizzed by so fast that I really caught nothing more than a flash of yellow in amongst the red, white and blue of his team but still.
I’m not even particularly interested in sports, or public figures. What interests me is what drives people, their ‘human’ rather than their celebrity side.
I read a condemning blog post about Whitney Houston’s death, and the scathing tone touched me enough to comment that maybe addiction isn’t as logical and manageable as we want to think it is. That’s why it’s called addiction in the first place, and apparently being a celebrity does not make you rise above that. So just like Whitney was clearly addicted to substances, I am wondering whether Armstrong became addicted to the success he created.
Can you be so addicted to success that you would do anything to attain, and maintain, it? Including taking performance-enhancing drugs? Including pressuring your teammates to do the same by threatening their careers?
Can you get addicted to success in the same way that you can become addicted to alcohol, gambling and drugs? Is winning the next race, getting that next medal the same as craving that next fix, wanting to turn the roulette wheel just one more time?
How do you rationalize and reconcile this with being publicly celebrated for what no cyclist before had achieved? How do you live with that amount of deception? And why?
I believe underneath it all what every addict wants is a feeling of feeling good. Not so different from the rest of us, except for an addict, that feeling of feeling good is to be attained at all cost, no matter the consequences.
And maybe in Armstrong’s case, that feeling of feeling good came from winning. Not only the races, but the admiration of millions. To be admired and respected is just another way of feeling loved, and who doesn’t want that? Everyone, of course, except thankfully not everyone resorts to large-scale lying and cheating in order to get it.
Part of me is saddened that such a sporting legend has been stripped of his achievements. That’s not to say I condone the alleged doping. That’s not even to say that those achievements were real. But my heart goes out to the pain Armstrong must feel at having lost his iconic status, at having been deprived of his ‘fix’, at being stripped naked in front of his adoring fans.
I can’t begin to conceive how you reconcile yourself with all that. How do you deal with watching the world that you have so carefully constructed crumble in front of you, to lose the identity that you have created?
I am sure over the coming days and weeks there’ll be many more condemning news reports and commentaries. But my take on it is this: have a little compassion. Don’t condone the actions, but see the person underneath. The hurt, the addiction. Today’s news must be like going cold turkey on steroids.
Who knows whether he’ll continue to deny what seems overwhelming evidence, or whether he’ll decide to come forward with a ‘confession’.
All I know is this: Addiction isn’t logical, it’s emotional. If indeed there is such a thing as being addicted to love, then it’s just that – addictive.
And we might as well face it: Judgement never heals. Not us, not the individual we are judging.
Love heals, but loving an addict is hard.
I know. I’ve spent a lot of time judging.