Lance Armstrong: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Oh, Lance.  I hate to do it, but I just have to speak my mind about our national hero/punching bad, the cyclist and erstwhile marathon runner Lance Armstrong.  Finally, after years of speculation and denial, Lance (sort of) laid it out on the table for Oprah Winfrey.  Don't worry, it's not all bad.  Let's start with the good.

First of all, props to Lance in a big way.  Here is the consummate athlete, who overcame incredible odds, beat advanced testicular cancer, and then potentially saved many others through the advocacy, education, inspiration and funding that his Livestrong foundation provides.  He is a madman at cycling.  Seven time winner (before the victories were vacated) of the Tour de France, arguably the toughest athletic event on the planet.  And he's a runner.  Not only is he a runner, but he makes running marathons look easy, first running the NYC marathon, home turf of my NYC podiatry practice, and moving on to other races despite the risks of sprains, strains, stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis and heel pain.  And yes, those races were won with the assistance of performance enhancing drugs, but I defy anyone to perform at that level seven years in a row, with any cocktail of steroids, EPO, testosterone or the enhancer du jour on board.  Lance the athlete, leader and philanthropist is quite the role model.

Then there's the other Lance.  The cheater, the bully, the liar.  It's bad to dope, but to lie about it, deny it so vociferously and adamantly for so long is just wrong.  The truth will set you free, as the saying goes, and it becomes harder and harder to dig out of a lie the longer it is perpetuated.  I can't speak to the actual bullying, but if it's true, it makes the case that much more ugly.  Nothing much more for Lance to do here other than stare deep into the camera and offer a sincere apology.

Athletes are getting better by the year, and records are constantly being shattered (4 minute mile, anyone?), so I understand the temptation to find any utilize any and all available advantage that provides an edge.  Perhaps we as fans contribute to that temptation indirectly by demanding superlative performance.  And it's certainly not confined to cycling, or running, or even our favorite national pasttime.  On some level, maybe we should let athletes dope and create the uber-athlete who will shatter records, and become a national sensation.  On the other hand, that is a slippery slope we just don't need.

So to the patients of my NYC podiatry practice, let's all keep it fair and remain drug free.  Well, except for the occasional anti-inflammatory.

See you in the office.

Dr. Ernest L. Isaacson

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