To frame this up, I love the Tour de France. As a family, we’ve watched 24 of them (yes, we started when Kate was an infant). We love cycling as a sport. Every year we are disappointed when the rider who inspired us yesterday is busted for doping the following day. The family line has been, “If it’s too good to be true, it is.” Yet, each summer we show up to hear Paul and Phil and watch the riders who we believe are riding a clean race. We’ve had a gazillion conversations about Lance, and others (including my personal beau, George Hincapie). We knew about him. Everyone knew. This isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened in sports (I think Jerry Sandusky set the bar pretty high for that), but it’s pretty bad.
Steve and I have spent the last two evenings watching the Oprah interviews. They’re intense and compelling. And some of it is believable. Some of it seems shifty. By his own admission, he’s not a credible source. The very fact that he confessed to Oprah, and not directly to the UCI, makes the story suspect. There are so many missing pieces and I don’t think he’s telling the whole truth. He’s a really, really good liar.
But here’s the deal. He’s leaning into the truth. I think he is trying to make it right. I don’t know that he will ever make it all right. But I do feel just a little compassion and tolerance for someone who is doing their best to take care of their corner of the world and clean up their mess. Leaning into the truth may not be as honorable as being committed to the truth. And it leaves lots of room for interpretation, as we can see on every news outlet. But it’s a start. And sometimes it’s the best we can do.
I’m not worried about Lance. He’s a savvy, crafty guy. He’s an opportunist (and so is Oprah, and nice job on the interview Miss O). I’m not even that worried about his kids. Lots of kids live with imperfect parents (including mine). I think about the sport and hope (please, let it be true this time) that it’s now clean. I think about Paul and Phil, who have been defending Lance for so long (and who are perhaps my main reason for watching the Tour). I think about the Livestrong Foundation and everyone who has been inspired, supported and healed by their work. (By the way, I think if they are going to keep their name, a rebrand might be helpful, and I know a wonderful design firm!)
Cheating isn’t as black and white as we’d like to imagine. I’m not saying what he did was acceptable, but I think we’ve set up our professional athletes with an almost impossible test of morals. I’ve never been tested like this, and I wonder how I’d stand up. I do like to think my simple guideline that if I can’t say something with my outside voice, then I probably shouldn’t be doing it, would serve me. Lance didn’t just cheat…he lied and bullied. So the gray gets a little darker, and closer to that black and white line. It was wrong, really wrong.
I understand why people will always be angry with him, I do. I don’t believe all he says. I am an emotional person, and would have appreciated seeing a little bit of emotion. But I don’t think that’s how he’s wired, or most competitors are wired. This is his gig, not mine.
I do believe he’s leaning into the truth. And that’s good enough for me, for now.
I’ll be watching the Tour again this summer. I believe it’s the best way I know to help support a sport that has given our family so much pleasure and inspiration. Plus, Paul and Phil will be there.