Lance Armstrong’s slap on the wristbands

I’m holding out for a hero.

What makes me hurl about Lance Armstrong’s downfall isn’t so much his marathon hypocrisy, or even the generations of wristbands bearing false witness to nobility.It’s that few are talking about the runners-up, the also-rans, those possibly squeaky-clean cyclists in his wake who were cheated of glory. As Armstrong gets stripped of his trophies and titles, shouldn’t we be adorning someone else with his sloppy-second laurels?

You argue: They were all probably doping to get where they got. It was a culture of cheating. Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, vows to blot out not just Armstrong’s record but the entire field of competition by negating seven years of  championship races from 1999-2005. Like it never happened.

This seems a classic sweep-it-under-the-rug response. Can’t we try a little harder to boost my spirits and prove performance-boosting doesn’t run so rampant? Bloomberg has reported, indeed, that of the handful of cyclists who stand to inherit Armstrong’s tainted spots in history, three of them drip in doping scandals of their own.

I wanted to believe Lance Armstrong was superhuman. We all did. I mean, just look at him.

We thought Lance Armstrong — an anti-hero despite the superhero name — knew no bounds. Rather, he knew no rules. And oh, snap! What about all those souls inspired to wear his Livestrong wristbands; maybe their good works can cancel out his bad.

But I need a hero. And not just a woe-is-me whistle-blower like Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service teammate Dave Zabriskie, whose testimony propelled the International Cycling Union (UCI) into doing the right thing. Yeah, OK, pat on the head, nice to see the conscience-raising.

A rhinoceros beetle grub. I’m told these mealy things make fine meals for the pygmies in the Congo — that children will stand around a tree waiting for someone to burst it open like a piñata, so they can collect handfuls and take them home to be cooked.

C’mon, sports is about being in awe. I want some AWE-SOME now. Let’s dig deep and elevate a story about some lone cyclist who had to wrist-band his bike together as a poor kid in the Congo and subsist on rhinoceros beetle grubs, who fell down a lot, maybe lost a limb, but got back up. I don’t know. You tell me. I know nothing about cycling. I know little about sports, as you can probably infer.

But this doping debacle has suddenly gotten personal. It’s the U.S. team, and that’s us. And it’s getting to be where there’s a hall of shame in every sport. Baseball’s Barry Bonds-men. My New Orleans (non-)Saints. I’ve even read (Googled, just now) charges about  basketball games being thrown — for money! (yeah, this happens in soccer all the time, but the NBA?)

Not to sound naive. But why does competition lately seem to bring out the worst in us? Including politics, which has been reduced to keeping score and gaming the system. Is there no end to the lengths we’ll go to win, win, WIN?

It’s no wonder I prefer art over athletics. There’s no disputing its awesomeness, even when there are tricks at play.

So, until someone can show me an honest, high-achieving athlete, this guy, below, gets my vote for greatest cyclist EVER, for elevating athleticism to an art form. Give Danny Macaskill some of that Lance Armstrong money for his mad skills.

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