Dear Mr. Armstrong,
First, I would like to say that I genuinely hope you are doing well. The amount of criticism that you are currently dealing with would be stressful for anyone. It is one thing to admit to cheating in private, but an entirely different ordeal to make a confession on national television in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. I sympathize with you for dealing with that kind of attention. I think that it only adds to the downward spiral that many celebrities go through. But I cannot ignore that your mistake was deliberate.
I do not sympathize with your decision to use performance-enhancing drugs. You have known for many years that you are scrutinized in the relentless public eye. People in the public eye are role models whether they want to be or not. You made the decision to share your life very publicly, and with that comes judgment. For many celebrities, it is a judgment that gives me whiplash going back and forth between praise and criticism, but I was convinced that you were not the same. I didn’t think that you would habitually cheat at your job.
Should I only say that it was you cheating at your job though? Wouldn’t it be almost more appropriate to say that you cheated yourself? Every time that you chose to use performance-enhancing drugs, you were telling yourself that you were not actually good enough to win with your own natural ability. You hurt not only your image to millions of fans, but you hurt your self-image. That notion saddens me: the idea that a world-class athlete somehow struggles with self-confidence.
I would next like to argue that putting in the effort to train and win a title fair and square would take less energy and be more rewarding than spending half of your career lying. Lying is easy. (I myself will admit that I missed touching second and third bases during my inside-the-park homerun I hit freshmen year of high school softball, but I digress) People lie every day and get away with it. People plagiarize, they cut-corners and they play the blame game. Oftentimes, though, these are group decisions. Yours was strictly personal, yet in a way that affected your fellow competitors, fans and business partners.
I will not bother mentioning all of the titles you won or brands that you promote. Frankly, I think that most people would agree with me that to say that you ever “won” them at all is completely false. To say that you won those races at all would be to disrespect the integrity of the competition itself as well as the other athletes. You did not just have those titles taken away, but you never earned them. To earn something immorally can hardly be thought of as earning it at all.
I will recognize something that you did earn, though. The success of your business is more complicated than a doping scandal. Much of the success of LiveStrong is based on something that you could not possibly have cheated on. I said before I wouldn’t talk about your accomplishments, but this is one accomplishment that no one can ever take away from you, one accomplishment that you can be proud of for the rest of your life, and that is kicking cancer in the butt. I hope that you take satisfaction in this achievement above all others. Winning cycling races will not elongate your life at the same level as beating cancer. For many people, it may not even make them nearly as impressed by you as beating cancer.
What I don’t understand is how can someone who beat cancer not feel confident enough to believe that he can win sporting competitions? Beating cancer may be one of the toughest endeavors in someone’s life physically, mentally and emotionally. Correct me if I’m wrong, but willing yourself to win a bike race can hardly stand up to the energy that goes into willing yourself to continue living.
So in noting that you do have a significant amount of strength in your past, I would like to encourage you to use that in your present. I hope that you can find that part of yourself to bring to the forefront once more. This is mainly because the thing that gets to me even more than the fact that you used drugs to win is the fact that you have yet to apologize for your actions. I imagine that you know that it’s wrong, right? I hope that coming clean for using performance-enhancing drugs came from the heart. But if it didn’t, you still have the chance to redeem yourself. You have already taken the first step in the process by admitting to what you have been accused of for years. An apology is only one step away. You took the blame for what you did and that’s huge.
I appreciate the steps you have taken so far, Mr. Armstrong, but I’m waiting to hear your apology. I wish you the best for the future. I hope that your reputation is not so tainted as to prevent you from being the success that your fans know you can be, whatever direction your career and life takes.