Lance Armstrong was one of the most motivational and iconic figures in the world. The story of his rise to international success, his battle against cancer, and his return to the top is a legend. He has inspired millions of people around the world; his autobiography is one of the highest grossing best sellers that topped all charts in no time at all. The Livestrong wrist bands are still worn today by many people to show their support for cancer – I remember sporting quite a few in my teenage when the trend had arrived. And yet, here we are. Today, Lance Armstrong has been stripped of all his accolades from 1999 to 2005 post his confession of having used illegal performance enhancing drugs during his victories. A tragic turn to the story of a hero – a hero who the world can no longer look up to.
We are all the children of generation X, Y & Z. Our generations are practical, materialistic and competitive. We realise that in order to survive today, we need to fight. And sometimes, unfairly. I am sure, that there is not a single person amongst us, who has not committed a single mistake in his or her life. We have all, due to pressure, at some point, given in to moments of weaknesses and have acted unfairly or unethically. Think about all the times when you slipped an angry cop a few bucks to escape getting a challan for driving without a licence. Many of us started drinking & entering pubs before the age of 21 (or 25 in case of Maharashtra). We all fake rent receipts to avoid taxes, download movies, games, television series and songs from the internet for free. There are many of us, who may have cheated in exams. Thus, there are a million sins we all commit everyday, which we take for granted. These are not sins anymore – they have become standard protocols to lead our lives.
So why is the fact that Lance Armstrong acted like one of us so demoralising? If anything – we should understand, because we have all cheated at some point or the other to gain unfairly. Some people may argue that since cycling is an international sport, followed by too many people, and which involves terrific amounts of prize money, these professionals are supposed to follow the rules. These people will also argue further that Lance Armstrong is a public figure – with a million followers. Thus, he owes it to the public. But to these people I ask – Is he not human? And as a human being, he is bound to make mistakes. So like the rest of us, does he not deserve forgiveness?
The argument will go on forever. But the issue of morality has been a grey area since eternity. In the Mahabharata, The Pandavas were the good guys, and the Kauravas were the bad guys. However, these characters did not behave like typical fairytale characters. The Pandavas had several flaws – of guile, cowardice, addiction to gambling. The Kauravas, on the other hand – had several virtues such as loyalty and intelligence. The Pandavas were given war strategies by Lord Krishna himself. And since Krishna is God – we expect him to be just and correct at all times. Yet, it was by his ruthless schemes using deceit and manipulation that the Pandavas won the war.
The truth is that we are all a little dark inside. In all of us, there is a good & a bad side, a strong & a weak side. We are all aware of our darknesses – and secretly, it shames us. We cannot accept that it exists, and we hate ourselves a little because we cannot get it out of our systems. Thus, we look up to our heroes – our role models, and imagine them to be everything we are not. So when they act wrongly, we feel shattered. It makes us all the more aware that we can’t escape our dark side, and that it will always co exist with the bright side. It is up to us to decide which one gains predominance inside ourselves, and more so – which side we prefer seeing in other people. Lance Armstrong may have won his titles unfairly – but what made him confess? He could have just retired gracefully and enjoyed his titles until his final days – but he chose not to. I choose to see this as an act of bravery, and for this – I continue to admire him.