The Road to Redemption: On Lance Armstrong and Ray Lewis

Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey will be aired on Thursday. (Reuters, Mike Hutchings)

So it’s out.

What we all knew all along but was denied with vehement conviction for years has turned out to be the truth.

Lance Armstrong doped.

The fairy tale of his miraculous journey from cancer survivor to seven-time Tour de France winner has turned out to be powered by illegal substances in what some have called the most sophisticated doping operation in sports history.

Armstrong, who is credited with having raised $500 million to fight cancer, has begun his quest for redemption and rehabilitation.

He met and expressed contrition to staffers at the Livestrong Association which he was inextricably linked for years, and he apparently admits to doping in a widely anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey that will be broadcast Thursday evening.

In her comments on Monday, Winfrey expressed satisfaction with Armstrong’s honesty.

The public may be less forgiving.

It is not so much that Armstrong did what so many other elite cyclists did  and have done for decades to try to gain an advantage in one of the most grueling sports known to mankind.

Rather it is the combination of his lies issued repeatedly over the course of a decade and the linking of his accomplishments to his recovery from cancer.

In order, the foundation of one of the most profoundly  inspiring stories was untruth.

Beyond that, the picture that has emerged of Armstrong is not only that of a cheater, but of a ruthless competitor who sought to intimidate any who crossed.

This speaks to his character that, ironically, was the source of so many people donating to the cause to which he dedicated himself.

Yet that work may ultimately be part of his ability to move from disgraced ex-champion to some sort of redemption.

Armstrong may draw some comfort in knowing that others have successfully made this journey before.

One of the most notable examples, in fact, will be playing on Sunday for the chance to return to the Super Bowl for the second time.

Ray Lewis.

The two men share similar backgrounds.

Both were born in poverty and grew up in the South.

Both had absent fathers.

Both  had strong relationships with their mothers and sought to use their sports success to help  them.

And both have earned respect, if not veneration, for their work off the field and in the community.

But whereas  Armstrong is starting what could be a lengthy journey to public acceptance, Lewis is basking in the glow of a monthlong lovefest with the Ravens fans, vanquished Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, among others.

There is some irony in this, as the crime of which Lewis was accused, but never convicted, was far more serious than Armstrong’s use of banned substances.

Murder.

In January 2000 in Atlanta, a fight broke out after a Super Bowl XXXIV party.

Two men were killed.

Lewis’ attorneys negotiated for the murder charge to be dropped against him in exchange for his testimony against two of his companions, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting.

Lewis pled guilty to obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor.

USA Today has noted that the families of the victims still feel that justice has not been done, and a number of writers have commented on Lewis’ complicated legacy.

But they are relative footnotes in the wave of adoration that has washed over the 13-time Pro Bowler.

Consider the change from 2001, when Lewis became the first Super Bowl MVP not to be asked by Disney where he was going after the game.

When asked about the events of 13 years ago by USA Today, Lewis declined to speak about what happened.

In the end, we do not know exactly what happened, but we do know the tragic results of the conflict.

We also know, thanks to the USA Today story, about the pain that still sits heavy with the victims’ loved ones.

When talking about apartheid South Africa, poet Don Mattera wrote, “Sorry is not just a word; it’s a deed.  It is an act.”

Armstrong has begun his efforts at rehabilitation by saying the words.

We will see what acts he takes.

Lewis has never offered words of contrition, but has taken actions that have convinced many, but not all, to see him in a different light.

The interview airs tomorrow evening.

Armstrong’s quest for redemption will continue from there.


El autor

Jeff Kelly Lowenstein es Editor de Bases de Datos e Investigaciones Vívelohoy

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