When the subject is cheaters, linking Lance Armstrong (who stands accused but not convicted of using performance-enhancing drugs while winning seven Tours de France) with disgraced baseball legend Barry Bonds is unavoidable. Of course, Bonds' accomplishments, which include the record for most career home runs, benefited only Bonds. Armstrong's success directly fueled the Livestrong Foundation, which has raised a reported $500 million benefiting cancer awareness and patient services.
Cancer survivors are likely as disappointed in the news about Armstrong as anyone, but they can't deny Livestrong's effect on their community. Armstrong's advocacy work has played a huge rule in changing our perception of cancer survivors, cheating or not. Beyond that, every cause that brands itself with a striking color or issues rubber bracelets to raise money and awareness is following a template laid out by Livestrong. Does the fact that Armstrong helped his charity raise a half a billion justify his alleged cheating? Does the cheating diminish Livestrong's continuing and profound impact? Those are interesting questions, and the answers might be what define Armstrong's legacy as a human being, not just an athlete.
The opposite of interesting is the question posed by the Wisconsin State Journal's Andy Baggot in a Tuesday column. "Is it unfair to lump Lance Armstrong and Jerry Sandusky in the same narrative?" Baggot wonders before attempting to do just that.
Sandusky is the former Penn State assistant football coach convicted in June of 45 counts of sexual abuse against children. Armstrong is accused of cheating at bike races in an era when it is generally acknowledged that all of his opponents were cheating just as hard.
If it was a mistake to deify Armstrong when he was winning, we should try to avoid demonizing him now, particularly when there is so much evidence of his good works.