Lance Armstrong is starting out on his road to redemption; he is seeking forgiveness. He apparently has taken step one, owning up to what many have known, to what most have suspected and to what he has denied for years, that he took performance-enhancing drugs. His interview with Oprah will air tomorrow and then we all will hear the full extent of his mea culpa; we will hear how sincere it is and how deep it goes. I hope that we will hear him own the damage he has done; I hope that he will not evade full personal responsibility by shifting blame to others. Recognizing that he alone is responsible for the choices he made is critical – it is not enough to say, yes, I did it, but; there is no room for “but” on his road to redemption. People will not forgive him if he does not own full responsibility for the choices he made.
We will also hear why he has decided to confess now, after all these years of vehement denial. I think his motivation for doing so will carry a great deal of weight with the public’s perception of him; his motive will matter. I sincerely hope his motive goes deeper than simply the desire to compete again, as some have suggested; I hope his motive to tell the truth comes from knowing that the many people he denigrated and harmed while he was dishonestly defending himself deserve at minimum his public acknowledgement that they were telling the truth. Asking for forgiveness is important but it will be difficult to forgive him if he does not acknowledge and take responsibility for the negative impact his choices have had on other people’s lives, not just his own.
Lance’s cheating and lying over the years have hurt so many people, people who were personally very close to him as well as fellow athletes. He has hurt his foundation, “Live Strong.” He has disillusioned millions who admired him. Sadly, he has turned his own heroic story into a sad tale of disgrace. Not only did he lose friends and admirers, not only did he lose the trust and respect others had for him, he lost his self-esteem, his self-worth, his image; with his overwhelming desire to win at any cost, he paid a very high price – he lost himself.
If the athletic community and the public forgive him and allow him to re-enter the world of sports, that will certainly give Lance the opportunity to regain doing what he loves, competing. If those closest to him forgive him that will certainly give him a measure of inner peace. However, the forgiveness Lance needs in order to reclaim all that he lost of himself is his own; he needs to forgive himself.
Regardless of how sincerely remorseful he is over what he has done, the consequences of his actions may always include a life without professional athletic competition, a life without having legions of adoring admirers. Lance will never be able to reclaim all that he lost from the outside world; no matter how contrite and sorry he is, he cannot turn back the clock and regain his life as he knew it. Losing so much through acts that were completely of his choosing is self-sabotage on a grand scale. Getting the forgiveness of others will not be easy; getting his own may be his biggest challenge of all.
Lance has started on a path that in order to travel well will take a great deal of personal soul-searching, will and integrity; it will certainly not be without difficulty and it may not end where he now hopes; his former life will not be restored. How he inhabits his new reality matters. If he handles the challenges he surely will face with dignity, if he creates a life of meaning out of the debris of his old life, if he lives his life in accordance with the true sentiment of “Live Strong,” he will have the ability to face and overcome the obstacles on his path towards redemption. I do not know if he will succeed, but I wish him well on his journey.