Response to Armstrong’s ‘doping’ is out of proportion

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George Sarafianos

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Photo by Patrick Smith
When I was in the third grade, we were taking a math test. I was never good at math, but I had studied and studied and studied and was confident. So that day, I walked into math as ready as could be and saw one of my classmates rifling through papers with a dismayed look on his face. He was even worse at math than I was, and knowing that he would have done the same for me, I told him that I’d let him look off my paper during the test.
Granted, this was cheating, but it was much more than that, I told myself. It was a friend helping another friend in need, something that is supposed to be a good thing. So during the test, we helped each other and all was going well. That is, until the teacher saw us.
She marched over with a stern look in her eye; she took our tests and ripped them up in front of the whole class, as was “customary” in her classroom. Although it came at the cost of humiliation and a poor grade, that day I made  a bond with my classmate that was far deeper than a test score. I had helped him out in his time of need, and although I had done so by cheating, I had aided somebody.
Repeatedly, parents, teachers and coaches have said to “play by the rules,” not stooping to the level of cheaters. Children are raised with ideologies implanted in their heads telling them that cheating is wrong, and it should never be resorted to, not even in the most dire situations.
But in light of the revelations from Lance Armstrong, I wonder if cheating itself really is for the worst.
Armstrong recently admitted to “doping”, or in layman’s terms, using performance enhancing drugs, throughout his career. The seven-time Tour de France Gold Medalist was stripped of his medals from 1998 to present. His performance referred to as “the greatest deception in all of sports history,” Armstrong appeared in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, discussing his admitted “doping.”
In the interview, which aired last week, Armstrong was said to have come surprisingly prepared, which in my mind would have been no less than the bare minimum for him to do, as he already had testified in front of a grand jury regarding the matter.  If Armstrong had even phrased a single sentence poorly, his case could have been subject to reevaluation, causing him to face years in prison for perjury. In the midst of all this, Armstrong is also currently occupied with potential lawsuits from his sponsors who have paid for his cycling team and his endorsements for years.
All for simply cheating.
This entire fiasco has been blown entirely out of proportion. Countless times, people have been made famous for “cheating”; in fact, we glorify it. Turn your television to Cartoon Network and you’ll find dozens of shows celebrating law-breaking vigilantes who disregard rules set forth by the government and take matters into their own hands: Batman, Iron Man, Spider-man — the list may very well be endless.
We project these two-dimensional, comic book icons as images of justice and goodwill, yet polls show we revile Armstrong, a human being with foibles and hubris, a professional cyclist whose Livestrong campaign raised more than $470 million, for doing  smack.
People thrive on hope, end of story. It builds businesses, campaigns, marriages … everything. In the end, it doesn’t matter what activates the hope or whether or not it was inspired unlawfully — what matters is that the hope was even there to begin with.
Yes, Lance Armstrong cheated throughout almost all of his cycling career. That may change the opinions of many regarding him as a person and what he has stood against, but what cannot be changed is the hope that he gave millions when he beat cancer and won the first of his Tour de France titles. Granted, he did this last part illegally, but that doesn’t change his comeback from cancer.
Imagine if tomorrow, NASA announced they had “cheated” in the Space Race. Would we run NASA through the dirt? Sue them? Maybe burn their headquarters down? Hopefully not, because their achievements gave us a feeling of accomplishment as Americans, a feeling of unity, and they still helped contribute to the greater good of our country, which in a way, is exactly what Lance Armstrong did. His is only one of the many cases where the ends justified the means.
By George Sarafianos
This opinion piece is labeled as such on the desktop version.
Do you agree? Does turning a blind eye to cheating really matter? I want to know your thoughts.