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It’s being reported that famed American cyclist Lance Armstrong is being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the U. S. Anti-Doping Agency. He is arguing that has passed all of his tests before. The USADA says since he did not follow their system of arbitration, he is basically confessing guilt.
The best I can figure, (and trust me, blood doping tests are not in my wheelhouse of knowledge), it’s kinda like refusing to take a breathalyzer when you get pulled over by the police for being suspected for driving under the influence. Once you refuse, it’s called implied consent and you’re considered guilty.
Lance Armstrong says the whole thing is a witch hunt and that he refused because he’s tired of jumping through the hoops of drug test after drug test. All of this really isn’t the point.
The point is we now have a fallen hero. Lance Armstrong will have his supporters and detractors over the coming weeks and months. It will definitely be an interesting time to see the sociological response.
Here’s what his supporters will say, most likely: “Here is a guy who beat testicular cancer a few years ago. Out of it rose the “Livestrong” movement in 2004 in which many people started wearing yellow wristbands to raise awareness for cancer research. He had stage three cancer that spread to his lungs and brain. He fought through it and became a winner again. That’s why he’s still a hero.”
Here’s probably what his detractors will say, maybe: “He’s a man who won because he cheated. I feel bad for him because he had to deal with cancer, but that doesn’t change the fact that he cheated.”
Others will be in the middle and say, “He may have cheated and if he did, he gets what he deserves, but he still overcame some great odds.”
What do we do with a fallen hero?
Blood doping may not be in my wheelhouse, but fallen people are. I am a fallen pastor and counsel a lot of them as well. What do we do with people we hold in such high regard and then suddenly, we find that they have fallen a great distance? What do we do when our heroes, those we look up to all of a sudden seem human like the rest of us?
One of the first things we can do is remind ourselves how imperfect we are. None of us are immune from a fall. Many of us have skeletons in our own closets that we wouldn’t want splattered across the front page, much less lingering as gossip in our communities. We have heroes for a reason. They are there for us to look up to, to admire, to give us hope and to inspire us. But heroes are also vulnerable people, just as we are. They fail, they fall, they sin. They make horrible mistakes.
After their races are won, after they’ve scored touchdowns for us, after they’ve served in office, after they’ve preached – and then they get caught in a transgression, are they no longer our heroes once we’ve seen their dark side? Not usually. Once we’ve seen that chink in their armor, we are quick to dismiss them, doubt their entire career and cast them aside quickly.
I might pose this question: Do you have any heroes from the bible? Maybe Paul, Peter, King David? Someone you can relate to? Each of those men did extraordinarily sinful things, yet we hold them in high regard. Why? Because after they sinned, they lived a life of holiness and repentance.
What now for Lance Armstrong? I might ask you, “If Lance Armstrong was your hero, why was he your hero? Was it because he overcame cancer?” Then let him continue to be your hero. Nothing will change the fight he undertook to overcome cancer.
What if he was your hero because he was a cyclist? You might feel betrayed or a little lost. You might even be angry at him. Learn to let it go. If he was your hero, learn to forgive. He gave you something to aspire to, something to aim for. Hopefully you can be great at something some day and be a hero to someone else. Learn how fragile it can be to be at the top. Pray for the man while he’s down just as hard as you cheered for him while he was at the top.
Finally, as a fallen pastor, I can speak to something very important. Don’t let one transgression mar all that you think about Lance Armstrong. If he did engage in blood doping for years, he’s definitely got a problem. But he did spend a career practicing hard, raising cancer awareness, engaging in humanitarian activity, and he apparently had success before he engaged in blood doping.
I tell people not to forget the good their pastors did over the years because of the sin he committed at the end. It’s hard to do that, but it is possible.
Do we cut Lance Armstrong loose as a hero? That’s for each person to decide. But it’s more important to remember that each of our heroes are amazingly human just as we are.
Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” He blogs at www.fallenpastor.com.