Lance Armstrong is a massive arsehole.
Or a misguided human being.
Or something in between.
He’s definitely done some things that most people would consider to be pretty awful. Aside from cheating, lying about it, not really being very contrite in the Oprah interview etc, he also called his former masseuse a drunken whore for blowing the whistle on him.
Definitely falls into the arsehole category.
But in the interests of stirring shit, I posed the following question on Twitter: What if you tried to set about raising half a billion for cancer and the best way to do it was to cheat at cycling? Would you still do it? (According to its website, Lance’s Livestrong charity has raised $470 million. Of course, like much else of Lance’s life, this may be bullshit, but even if we take it with a massive pinch of salt and say that ‘only’ $100m was raised and handed over, that’s still worth the question.)
The responses were interesting, in that about ten people retweeted the question, some ‘favourited’ it, and others replied in both positive and negative ways. Some thought that the ends would definitely justify the means, while others (particularly one bloke who seems to be into cycling) seemed to think that it was unforgivable, to some degree because of the harm it would do (did) to the sport of cycling. Others seemed to think it was wrong because people were being duped into giving money to a cancer charity on the basis of the inspiration Lance offered as a very successful cancer-sufferer.
Alas, there’s no right or wrong answer to this question, and I really don’t think Lance’s cycling career was an elaborate way of increasing donations to a cancer charity, but if he hadn’t done what he did there would be an enormous reduction in the amount of money donated to fight cancer (despite it being hypothetical I think we can generally agree that no Lance=no Livestrong). So whether one is better than the other is up to you, but I think it harks back quite nicely to this quote from A Few Good Men:
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it.
Lance is Jack and right now most of the rest of the world is Tom.
Sometimes ‘shitty’ things happen to make ‘good’ things happen. The only real question is: are you comfortable with that?
Meanwhile, let’s all smile ruefully at this strangely equivocal Nike ad: