It's true — Lance Armstrong lied about doping. There is no longer any doubt, the seven-time winner of the coveted Tour de France engaged in a subtle multi-year campaign designed to give him an edge over those he rode against.
For years, whispers of doping followed Armstrong, who vehemently denied the allegations until they could no longer be denied. The details of how he did it aren't important, really. As others have done, Armstrong did something he shouldn't have. For that, he's been thrown unceremoniously onto the sporting waste heap. Another of our heroes derisively cast aside.
It's a shame, because in doing so we dismiss all of the good work Armstrong's done. Regardless of how this has turned out, he is still a remarkable man.
He survived cancer and inspired a generation to fight hard against the killer disease. Doped or not, he was a hell of a rider and he inspired multitudes to do their best, seek out their own heights and most of all, survive. Do we throw all of that away because he proved fallible? Participation in competitive cycling is but one side of Armstrong. He is more than an athlete.
Armstrong is not the first of our heroes to fall. From Tiger Woods to Ben Johnson, many of the people we've set on pedestals for their achievements have tumbled, to be stomped down once they are again in our reach.
And it's not just sporting figures who are prone to bouts of humanity, either. In May 2010, my heart sank as popular Canadian children's writer Robert Munsch announced to the world his long struggles with cocaine addiction.
Like many, I've long admired Munsch for his stories and the way he connects with children. We've read A Promise Is A Promise many times in our home over the years, always hissing when the Qallupilluit speak. So many of his stories are filled with wondrous charm. For a brief while after his confession, I pondered putting the Munsch books in the dusty box in the storage room. The stories seemed to have lost some of their sparkle.
In the end, however, they stayed on the bookshelf and while Munsch may not get read as much these days — perhaps teens and tweens don't find The Paper Bag Princess as interesting as when they were five — I would gladly pull a Munsch tale from the shelf if required.
The man's failings do not diminish the work he did. It is our loss if we think otherwise. The stories he penned will always have value, just as those who Lance inspired will always remember him.
I understand why the sporting world needs to punish cheaters. The fact some seek competitive advantage through chemistry is painfully unfair to those who compete clean. I don't understand, however, why we must cast our heroes out once they show signs of frailty. Can we not accept the worth they have contributed, even as we dole out the necessary punishment?
I think the greater problem in all of this lies with us and our inability to accept the human condition. Perhaps we need to adjust expectations of ourselves and others as well.
We need to acknowledge human nature and understand both its greatness and faults, never letting one overshadow the other.