Thursday October 25, 2012

Berkshire Eagle readers responding to a poll question concerning disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong and his Livestrong anti-cancer campaign have in general made a distinction between the noble cause and the less-than-noble athlete (Eagle, Oct. 24, A-1.) We hope the nation will as well, because Mr. Armstrong, thanks to his cheating and just as importantly his refusal to own up to his actions, has done grievous harm to that cause.

After years of denials that he took performance-enhancing drugs during his record-breaking career, Mr. Armstrong was rendered silent two weeks ago by a withering report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency documenting drug use by the cyclist, who also bullied teammates who were reluctant to juice up, according to their testimony. While Mr. Armstrong still denies his drug use he is no longer fighting the allegations, and that silence speaks volumes. On Monday, Mr. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the International Cycling Union, whose president, Pat McQuaid, declared that "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling, and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling."

There will be no Tour de France winners recorded from 1999 to 2005 because, unfortunately, the top level of international cycling has proven to be riddled with liars and cheats. Apologists for Mr. Armstrong have been mounting the "everybody does it" defense, which defenders of steroid-addled baseball sluggers have employed, as well as politicians caught taking bribes. Well, everybody doesn't do it, and an infinite number of wrongs never make a right.

The public is forgiving of celebrity athletes and if Mr. Armstrong had come clean rather than petulantly deny the obvious he could have broken his fall. He undoubtedly feared that an admission of guilt would cost him sponsorships and force him to return prize money, but that is going to happen anyway through the courts in the months ahead. As a survivor of a deadly form of a cancer who introduced potentially dangerous drugs into his body, Mr. Armstrong is no longer much of a cancer spokesman and has wisely stepped down as head of his foundation.

The Livestrong campaign, with its ubiquitous bracelets, has performed a great service in raising cancer-awareness and funds for the fight. The cause remains, and Livestrong should continue fighting for the cause just as surely as its former head deserves to be forgotten.