Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Redemption for Lance Armstrong

Fr. Dale Matson

This is a photograph I took of Lance in the Tour of San Francisco in 2002

“With stunning swiftness, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday night it will strip Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he dropped his fight against drug charges that threatened his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.”

“Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him,” the sneaker industry leader said in a statement. “Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner.”

Trek offered a similar reason for cutting ties with Armstrong. “Trek is disappointed by the findings and conclusions in the USADA report regarding Lance Armstrong,” a statement from the bike company reads. “Given the determinations of the report, Trek today is terminating our long term relationship with Lance Armstrong.”

As I sat around the coffee table with my cycling friends last week. I asked them what they thought about Lance Armstrong. Words like “grieved”, “duped”, and “heartsick” expressed the sentiments of our group. It was sadness and disappointment for men who saw Lance (and we called him “Lance”) as a gifted cyclist, a team player, a philanthropist, a cancer survivor and someone with an unsurpassed training ethic. We are all triathletes and were saddened that he would not be participating in Hawaii Ironman. He has been banned from more than just cycling events. We simply did not want the accusations to be true.

When I read his book, “It’s Not About The Bike: My Journey Back To Life” (2000), I was moved by how much suffering he experienced in his fight to survive. In addition to his physical struggles, his ego was diminished by experiences like children passing him while he rode his bike. Lance was a man who experienced the dark night of the soul. He did not inflict this on himself but he was stronger for it and claimed that he could NOT have won the Tour without experiencing the cancer.

There are two things that concerned me when I had finished reading this compelling story. He referred to his father as a “sperm donor” and had rebuffed attempts by his estranged father to meet with him. Perhaps this anger toward his father helped fuel his performances. The second thing that bothered me was his unmerited sense of self-reliance. What about the many prayers of friends and family including his Roman Catholic Wife? He was surrounded by many caring individuals who had little to gain. They were not the sycophants who are deserting him in droves now.

Now we are looking at a downsizing once again. As I look at a photograph of Lance from Outside Magazine (01-05-12), I see a bare chested Lance with a Christian cross on a chain around his neck. If only the proximity of the cross represented his relationship to Christ. Unfortunately it is not a crucifix and the empty cross is more symbolic of a fallen Lance than a risen Christ. It is time for Lance to revisit the purpose of suffering because he is experiencing a crucifixion of sorts too.

I have a behavioral prescription for Lance and it is one suitable for all of us with clay feet. I find it to be a reliable antidote to an ego that insists on being god. Perhaps reading Job and the passion narrative from the Gospels would speak especially to Lance as it has to so many of us. I also believe that Lance would profit from reaching out and reconciling with his estranged father. The anger is not useful any longer. I believe confession is also good for the soul. There is no more reputation to protect and no more inflated ego to be served. Perhaps an apology to all those he has misled and those “teammates” he manipulated.

Finally, I hope that this second dark night has Lance searching with the same determination for a cure for a false self who is impersonating the real Lance Armstrong.

“It’s not about money for me. It’s all about the faith that people have put in me over the years. All of that would be erased. So I don’t need it to say in a contract, you’re fired if you test positive. That’s not as important as losing the support of hundreds of millions of people.”

“That which I feared most has come upon me.” (Job 3:25)


Dale Matson said...

Update 01/08/13

Dale Matson said...

He is admitting to doping and apologizing.