Let's be clear. This is the story. It's not, Lance Armstrong is Guilty or Lance Armstrong is a Liar or Lance Armstrong, Alien Husband?
If you work at ESPN, CBS, The Huffington Post, TSN, Sportsnet, FOX Sports, CBC, BCC, Some French Television Station Whose Sole Goal in Life is to Tarnish American Superstars, Al-Jazeera, or any other credible mainstream news organization, your goal is not to speculate over whether he's guilty or not. It's to report the facts.
Sure, your columnists will surmise whatever they want, and the blogosphere will be ripe with opinion and controversy -- that's all well and good. We should want to read other's opinions, and we should want to hear perspectives we don't agree with. It's a democracy and, aside from British Columbians voting down the HST and Greece electing a power duo of Communists and Neo-Nazis, democracy works most of the time.
If you think Armstrong is guilty, let's suggest you read something from one of his defenders while you're sucking back Merlot and feasting on brie tonight and reaping the rewards of your country's occupation of Vietnam in the 1950's. (Yea, that would be France.)
It would also do you good to read Armstrong's actual statement. He never admits guilt, never says he doped his one remaining testicle, and never once backs away from what he's been saying all along: "I'm innocent."
What he says is that he's tired of putting up with a "witch hunt" which has tarnished his name and soiled his reputation. And, it's true. Armstrong's name has been dragged through the mud like a hamster caught in one of his spokes.
Even that scene from Dodgeball is forever ruined, because we'll always feel like Peter Le Fleur got his life-changing advice from a skinny dude on some seriously strong Ritalin.
Listen to what the man says, because it actually makes sense. No athlete in modern history has gone through the kind of persecution that Armstrong has with the USADA or any other drug-sniffing corporation that's pretending to be for the good of the game when it's really only thinking about one thing: headlines.
Is Armstrong guilty? Maybe, maybe not (well, probably). But, does it really matter? Has it ever?
Carl Lewis was juiced when he won at least one of his two Olympic gold medals for the 100m dash, and he admitted to it. His excuse? Everyone else was doing it, so whatever, I did it, too.
"Who cares I failed a drug test," he said in 2003, in his trademark perfect English grammar. "There were hundreds of people getting off... everyone was treated the same."
Yeah, Carl, but Ben Johnson did lose his gold medal, and he gave it to you. And, you still have it.
This year, Carl Lewis was often cited as the only challenger to Michael Phelps for the title of "Greatest Olympian Ever".
Right, and Usain Bolt is just one of the guys from Cool Runnings.
Meanwhile, Ozzie Guillen got suspended for saying he loved Fidel Castro and a worker at ESPN got fired for an unintended mental slip-up involving the phrase, "chink in the armor," which is something most people say all the time and without any thought that it has nothing to do with anyone's nationality.
(Listen to Anthony Federico during his apology: "I'm so sorry that I offended people. I'm so sorry if I offended Jeremy." Yea, what a racist.)
But, Carl Lewis is viewed as a god, despite his musical career.
How can we be so outraged and violent with some, and then so selective and convenient with others?
So, if you're an independent mind, write whatever you want. If you believe Armstrong is guilty, then write it and support it. If you believe he's innocent -- and you can find anyone else who agrees with you -- then write it, and support it.
But, if you're a reporter or a news organization -- if you're Reuters or the Canadian Press or the Associated Press -- then please, for the love of Abraham, just write it as is. If I'm looking for the actual headline, I want to see the actual headline. I want to know what happened and I want to hear it straight up. I want the good stuff -- uncut and pure.
Write that he's been stripped of his titles. Write that he's given up the fight. Write that he has one testicle.
Write the news. Write what we know, because somebody has to.
The rest will have to wait.
*This was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.