Lance Armstrong has finally come clean by admitting he used performance enhancing drugs. There are a multitude of debates going on about whether he should be forgiven this indiscretion or not, about why he chose to make his confession now, and whether any of it even matters.
For the record, I think it does matter for a number of reasons. In addition to the damage it does to the integrity of the sport, it sets a bad example for so many people that looked up to Armstrong. It also causes more pain to so many that considered him a hero for overcoming, in what seemed at the time to be a spectacular form, a disease that destroys or ends the lives of so many. He snatched hope from them in that regard, and that is a terrible thing.
Beyond all that, the next several years will result in the legal system being unnecessarily involved in the sports world. Putting aside the legal and fund-raising problems his foundation, Livestrong, may experience in the coming years for a moment, Armstrong will now have a number of legal issues to address.
For starters, he may get criminally prosecuted for perjury. He flat-out denied using PEDs in court a number of times. It turns out those statements were utterly false. He also won millions of dollars in a lawsuit in relation to an insurance policy designed to pay out if he met certain thresholds in terms of winning races. Because the insurance carrier argued he was not entitled to the policy proceeds on grounds he cheated and Armstrong won, expect that company to come back and ask for their money to be returned. In another example, Armstrong sued a former U.S. Postal Service masseuse for slander in Britain because she dared admit he was using PEDs. Armstrong won a large award that she now has legal grounds to sue him over.
And these may be the least of his worries. It seems the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles has taken a renewed interest in a case that has been pending for some time. The lawyers in U.S. Attorneys’ offices are real pros, and they don’t get involved in cases unless they know they can convict you. This may spell jail time.
And in the coup de grace, news surfaced in the last day or so that Armstrong may have been much more than a user of the PEDs. He might have been among the leaders of an organization that schemed for wide-spread use of the drugs. Does this make him the functional equivalent of a dope dealer? Could he be accused of being involved in some kind of organized crime? Who knows; time will tell.
The point is this: let this be a lesson that when you think being involved in the legal system is a game or it’s a good idea to use it as a weapon, it eventually comes back to haunt you. The Court system is about evidence. And as any good trial lawyer will tell you, you can have your own arguments and opinions about what it means, but you don’t get your own set of facts.
My guess is that word will come down in the next several months that new evidence corroborating allegations against him was going to come out and he wanted to get ahead of it (see Floyd Landis suit as Exhibit A). It was becoming so insurmountable, and he has lost so many of the people who protected him by burying them himself, that it has all caught up to him.
I am sorry to see this happen. His charitable foundation has done so much to raise awareness about cancer and to provide a support system for those that have the disease. But Armstrong also did it to himself.