Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lance Armstrong - a neutral point of view !

Before I begin to write about this topic, let me make a few necessary avowals. Firstly, I have never been an ardent fan or follower of Lance Armstrong or the cycling sport in general. But being a sports enthusiast (read as junkie) I am aware of his grandeur, his achievements, his phoenix act of rising from cancer, his LiveStrong charity that seems to be doing great social service, his book that evidently has inspired many and of course his shameful and disgraceful doping act … Secondly, this post is a quite loonnngggg and might give the feeling of a rant as most debates do when there is only one person talking (Nope, I don’t have any intentions to incite comparisons with Arnab’s News Hour ;)) …

Okay, so now that Lance has confessed about resorting to banned performance enhancing drugs and thereby abusing the sport, it puts all speculation to rest. All the subsequent uproar in media, on social networking sites is understandable.  Everyone is venting out their anger and branding Lance with choicest of allegations and punishments. Maybe not been overly connected to this sport gives me a chance to ponder over this objectively and I do not agree with all of this bashing. Obviously, this is only my personal opinion and I wouldn’t force anyone to agree with this… (This is the third necessary and most important avowal ;) ) just hope that it gives a different point of view to ponder about.

To begin with, I agree that Lance has cheated the sport, and cheated it big time, cheated repeatedly and  unabashedly without any remorse … This is definitely a fraud, a fraud to the sport, a fraud to his national representation, fraud to his followers and biggest fraud to his honest competitors who might have got one up on Lance had he not doped. He has deprived them of a fair chance to glory! So, go ahead and brand him a cheat, brand him a fraud … initiate all legal actions against him, strip him of his titles, strip him of his endorsements … but what I don’t agree with is branding him as a bad human being, accusing him of not meeting your expectations and betraying your trust, spreading ill comments about his charity and so on …

Let me start with meeting expectations bit and I would like to discuss it in general for all sports persons or celebrities. Invariably all of them get weighed down by the expectations from their fans, the media, the so called experts and every TDH. What we forget is that at the end they are human and although they might have been lucky to be able to make their hobby as their profession, all of them are into their field as much if not more, for earning their bread as much for satiating their hobbies. For people who say that it’s their fans who make them famous which helps them to make more money … I would like to differ… it’s their consistent performance, their hard work and their commitment that has brought them the fortunes. The love from fans definitely works as fuel to motivate them … but all the endorsement and sponsorship is only due to their accomplishments in their field. (There are still millions of fans of Rohit Sharma, but unless he proves himself in the middle I don’t see him making the quick and easy bucks!)

When any sportsman gets into a sport and starts doing well, people start liking them and the admiration gradually leads to hero worship. But the problem here is that aren't our expectations as unilateral as the bonds company makes you to sign when you join them as a fresher? Whenever a legend supposedly fails (be it doping or leaving one club and moving to another club or their love life or alcohol abuse etc) we hear people say that how could he break our trust? As a fan I idolized him, how could he betray our love? Media harps about him defying the code of conduct that comes with being a public celebrity … Brethren, just tell me one thing, have you discussed your expectation with him and got his agreement that he will fulfill them? Has he agreed to the hero worship at this cost? Does he want to be idolized with such close scrutiny or he would just rather continue his sport as a profession and also live his life on his terms? Why do we all unnecessary get all sportsperson into this unilateral contract? I don’t think any sports person comes to us and asks us to be their fan. We should stop being so demanding as fans because at the end of the day they are also humans like us and might have their vices, they are not doing this for us, it’s their profession, so rather than raising them to unreal heights and then making demons of them we all should keep our expectations realistic!

Sorry for this detailed rant about expectations, but using this I want to come to the more pertinent point of branding Lance as a bad human. Brand him a cheat, but a bad human I am not sure … now firstly let’s be frank and agree that we all do cheat at some levels and walks of our life … all of those who are branding him as a bad human … I am sure many of them would have cheated to forge some proofs to save their income tax … many of them would have cheated in some way during their academic career to ensure good results for them or help their friends (copying assignments, helping in practicals, during  exams etc)  … now if cheating makes one a bad human …I don’t think you will find many good humans around. When I raised this point during a water cooler chat, one counter argument I got is the proportions of cheating in context are different … also this is something everyone does. Okay, then again, who has decided which cheating assumes a higher proportion and which one lower? If there is some wrong that is done by a majority does that make it a lesser wrong??

I am not saying that even if you cheat you are a good human being. What I am saying is that branding someone a bad human being should be a sum of many facets of his personality and conduct. Not just the one which is sensationalized. Per me (I repeat, this is my personal belief) collectively adding up his misdoings and the positive impact he has had on the society through his book and his charity … I will stop short of branding him as a bad human! (I am not a journo, and sitting here in India, my opinion about the positive impact of his charity is based on what I have read on the internet. He has been able to raise millions through his charity … and about the positive impact his book has had on cancer patients is a widely known fact).

I am not trying to cover his doping by glorifying his charity … I already said that he should be subjected to all the legal proceedings; but a person can resort to cheating in the heat of competition and he should be put to trial for that cheating bit only … I know with the lies he has been vehemently producing to defend himself all this time, it’s difficult to believe any of his other acts!!! Even his apology on the Oprah Winfrey show was more like an apology of getting caught rather than actually feeling sorry for doing it.

My point is only that we should first understand and consider him as human as us, not judge him against our expectations but judge him rationally vis-à-vis his actions against the rules of the sport, and not belittle his contribution to society.  We will find many legends who don’t have any black spot in their career (I would like to call it professional career) but wouldn't have given back to the society or made any difference (outside the sport). It’s a grey area as to which one is better … but why get into comparisons in the first place?? They did what they felt was right and Lance did what he felt was right … (I know I know you guys are already eager to comment that we all are doing what we think is right J)

Anyway PEACE OUT peepz !! Take Care and keep kicking.

~ hiren


Saumil Shah said...

I think it is a little more complicated than that. I agree with you that doping doesn't make him a bad human being, but just a cheat.

One of the reasons, why he was branded as a bad person, is because he misused his position as a team leader to force his teammates to dope. They were threatened that their careers would be short lived,if they didn't comply.

It's one thing if you just do something yourself, but if you force people to do nasty things, because of the power that you hold, you are definitely not a nice person.

Having said that, his charity work is commendable, and that facet of his life should remain untarnished.

Hiren said...

thanks Saumil ... thats precisely my point !!! :)