Here is my response to an article recently published by ESQUIRE, entitled LANCE ARMSTRONG IN PURGATORY: THE AFTER-LIFE. This article had some moments that I thought would be great teachable moments for men who are seeking to be disciples and leaders. The article is quite long but I figured it was appropriate to extract a few comments directly from the article and 6 profound lessons:
LESSON 1: When we sin, the morally good work we have accomplished is not negated, only our character.
“But trail him for a few days and watch how giddy and hopeful the sick and the dying become in his presence, forgetting for a moment their nausea and pain and mortal fears. Amid all the controversy and disgrace, you admit, you forgot just how important Lance Armstrong was and still is to cancer patients everywhere.”
“[He] wrote a best-selling memoir called It’s Not About the Bike that inspired cancer patients like nothing had ever inspired them before. He replaced the phrase “cancer victim” with “cancer survivor” and made it so hip to wear a yellow Livestrong bracelet, ninety million of them sold at a dollar apiece.”
LESSON 2: When we sin there are human consequences.
“A year and a half after the scandal that ended his career, after being stripped of all his trophies and confessing the ugly truth to his children and losing in a single day an estimated $150 million, these are the circumstances to which he has been reduced.”
“Last spring, he even got kicked out of a local swim meet. This was six months after the USADA—the United States Anti-Doping Agency—issued the lifetime ban against him competing in any sport “under the Olympic umbrella,” which includes pretty much anything anywhere.”
LESSON 3: The longer you hide your sin the further reaching the ramifications can be.
“‘I would do anything to be sitting back in that small café with Anna, and make a decision to just call [returning to the sport of racing] off.’ Then it all vanished in an instant. Cornered for transgressions that surprised absolutely no one inside the sport, Armstrong suffered one of the most astonishing and brutal reversals of fortune in American history, a level of punishment so extreme it raises the question of what was really being punished.”
LESSON 4: Once you learn to cheat, and discover it temporarily power, it may be hard to unlearn the pattern.
“This we can stipulate: Lance Armstrong cheated death, and then he kept on cheating. And he was no run-of-the-mill cheat. Sublimely American in his ambition, he became the best cheater, greatest cheater of all time, turning a European bicycle race into a gaudy, ruthless, and unprecedented demonstration of American corporate prowess and athletic hegemony.”
LESSON 5: How we respond to sin can be our worst moment or our finest moment, but we get the opportunity to choose.
“He’s sorry, he swears, for the lies and the bullying and the lawsuits against journalists. “It was indefensible,” he says. “Pure hubris.” But he’s not going to be a hypocrite, either. The doping charges were [false]. “[No other racer] has stepped forward and said, ‘I really won those races,’ ” he says. “They didn’t award those jerseys to somebody else. I won those races.”
LESSON 6: Just because we sin this doesn’t mean that people are going to completely give up on us or that we should give up on ourselves.
” [A video message sent to a cancer survivor] ‘Hey Louis. I’m Lance Armstrong. I got a message from the folks over at Livestrong telling me about your health situation and current news. I wanted to send you a video message and let you know I’m thinking about you and pulling for you. I understand you’re seeing Dr. Einhorn so we know you’re seeing the best of the best. Anything I can ever do, let me know. One more thing, I understand you’re a member of the Navy. Thank you for your service. It’s truly appreciated. Hang in there, buddy!’
Louis Olvera remembers the exact moment he got that video. He was standing in an Ikea parking lot in Austin and feeling nervous about starting additional chemo following his visit a week before to the doctor who had saved Armstrong, Lawrence Einhorn of the Indiana University School of Medicine. “That video couldn’t have come at a better time,” Olvera says. “I was ecstatic. The idea that despite his situation, with everything that was going on last year, just to hear from him, to know that he still cares for the survivors, I was just really blown away. I’m still blown away. It’s an honor to share how much it meant to me and my family.”