Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o became punchlines on late-night talk shows and social media this week -- Armstrong for his two-part confessional with Oprah Winfrey and Te'o for apparently having been a part (unwittingly, or otherwise) of a huge hoax. We laugh, but these stories are honestly more sad and sick, than funny. They are drawn from the deep, dark well of black humour.
The trouble with Lance Armstrong's fall from grace is that he wasn't just a sports hero; he was a self-styled symbol of hope. Which is why we're all left wondering: does his doping confession negate his charitable work? Candidly, we're conflicted. Some of the onus for Armstrong's fall lies on our cultural tendency to elevate celebrities and sports idols to too-good-to-be-true status, then crucify them in the court of public opinion at their every transgression.
It's an old cliché that sports is a metaphor for the human condition. But there's a lot of truth to it. As technology helped humanity obliterate these milestones and move beyond what until 100 years ago had been a long, bleak history, similar advances in nutrition, training, and using technology to improve technique have enabled sports records to fall with astonishing regularity. Let there be sports leagues that thrive on "pure sport," whatever that is, and let there be sports leagues where athletes are left to balance their own health and career longevity with technology, pharmacology, and the quest for a competitive advantage.
What is a "lovemark" you ask? Well, I like to say that it's all about the emotional cement. Brands that are emotionally cemented to their customers reach their hearts as well as their minds and they deliver beyond expectations of great functional performance. They capture "heartshare as well as mindshare." It really has been a bad year for lovemarks (ahem, RIM).
A week after the United States Anti-Doping Agency showed the world its evidence in the doping case against Armstrong, claiming he was at the centre of an organized doping program on his Tour de France winning teams, Armstrong stepped down on Wednesday as chairman of Livestrong, his cancer foundation. Nike, the company that had his back for over ten year's worth of doping allegations, was quick behind. They decided to unceremoniously terminate his contract. Neither of these decisions will keep me up at night, in fact they should have been done weeks ago. However! what is sorely lacking from all of Wednesday's announcements are two words that should leave Armstrong's lips and echo around the cycling stratosphere.
It's fair enough to suspect Lance Armstrong of doping, and since 1999 he'd been put through the hoops time and time again. Yet, nothing. Other cyclists tested positive -- not Armstrong. I haven't a clue if Armstrong was, or was not, using banned substances. All I know is that it has never been proven. If you can't prove something, you can't convict him.