Defining Lance Armstrong

Defining Lance Armstrong
August 24, 2012, 5:03 pm
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If this is Lance Armstrongs passive-aggressive version of admission that he did everything every other successful cyclist of his era did, fine.If it his last desperate attempt to middle finger the u.s. Anti-Doping Administration, fine too.If it is his only way out after years of trying to bully compatriots into silence and being bullied by a collation of the more powerful, well, paybacks a bitch.But he chose an interesting way out by saying he intended to concentrate on his work with cancer patients. Not exactly the O.J. search-for-the-killer-on-the-golf-course defense, this.RELATED: Armstrong to be stripped of Tour de France titles
So let him do that. If thats how his career ends, then it least it ends well. Especially if he keeps all these good works he keeps trumpeting to himself.Armstrongs disgrace doesnt interest me all that much, because I never held him in particularly high esteem one way or the other. I wasnt that invested in his legacy anyway, because legacies are, to put it elegantly, crap, and those who attend to their legacies while still in their prime deserve the crap they take.But deeds do matter, and if he intends to do the same work to fight cancer while in disgrace that he did when he was an international icon, then good on him. It wont make me feel any better about him, but its not about what I think of him anyway.RELATED: Tour de France not commenting on Armstrong case
Its what the people he says he intends to help think of him, while hes helping them.But we can grade him this much: If he does what he says he is going to do, and does so without cameras or hagiographers or a phalanx of P.R. people, fine. He at least walked this part of his talk. If he decides as he said Thursday, that he is tired of protecting his reputation and just wants to do the work of the angels, then he can do it quietly, and reap whatever rewards are to be had either in quiet satisfaction or in whatever afterlife is provided for us all.You see, reputations are what people will argue about with Armstrong for the next few days. He will either be judged as a victim or as a fraud, either as a nobleman besieged by the jealous or as a guy who bullied others until he was bullied himself by someone bigger, as the ultimate shame of his sport or as its ultimate sacrificial lamb.But judgments will be made, and Im fine with all of them. Let him be whatever you want him to be. He doesnt own his reputation anyway. Nobody does. It belongs in the eye and on the tongue of the beholder.So whats he got now then if he hasnt got that? Hes got his oft-stated vow to help those with cancer, and if I must cast a vote on his reputation, then I prefer to wait to see if he did what he said he would do in this arena.And whether he did it with as much fervor when nobody was looking as when he was bracketed by cameras and handlers and publicity hounds. Service is most sincere when it whispers, and those who how shout Look what Im doing! are interested more in you looking than in them doing.So if you must define Armstrong as a cyclist, have at him. Whatever he has coming, he will get. As a human being, he still has a chance at redemption, but if he does it the way he should, a lot of people will never know. Its called selflessness, and it isnt measured in sound bytes or clips of well-crafted paragraphs.In short, to save his reputation, he must care only about saving others. And in the end, only he will know whether he was worth the bother.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.comAP Images