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August 6th, 2010
11:57 AM ET

"If Lance Cheated, Can That Be a Good Thing?"

From CNN Saturday and Sunday Morning Anchor TJ Holmes:

Quick, name 3 professional cyclists.

OK … you got Lance Armstrong.

Chances are … you can't come up a second one, much less a third. The only reason you know anything about cycling is because of Lance Armstrong.

We don't care about cycling in this country. Some people may get offended by that, but relatively speaking, we love football, baseball, and basketball in this country with a side serving of hockey, golf, and tennis.

But you know about Lance Armstrong because of his accomplishments in winning 7 Tours de France, because of his compelling personal story of beating testicular cancer, and because of his efforts in raising hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research.

We know Lance Armstrong. But, do you want to know whether or not he was doping/cheating to win all those Tours?

The New York Times reported today that federal investigators have collected information from former teammates and associates of Armstrong's that say Armstrong and his team participated in systematic doping. This is in addition to similar claims made publicly earlier this year by his former teammate Floyd Landis, who lost his tour title in 2006 because of doping. Armstrong has faced allegations before and has always strongly denied he ever doped and nothing has ever been proven.

We are used to sports heroes falling in doping scandals. Go down the list: Mark McGwire, Marion Jones, A-Rod, it goes on and on. Their cheating benefited one person: the person cheating. IF Armstrong cheated, some are now arguing, his cheating would have benefited others.

Cheating is never a good thing ... you should never do it ... let's make that clear. We certainly hope Armstrong is and always has been clean.

But think about this: What if he did cheat? You could argue that if he didn't cheat, he wouldn't have been able to win the Tours. If he didn't win, he wouldn't have been able to draw all that public attention. Without the public attention, he wouldn't have been able to raise $325 million dollars through his foundation for cancer research.

Should someone get a pass for their bad deeds because they also did good needs? Let's hope we're not faced with that choice when it comes to Lance Armstrong.

Join TJ Holmes weekend mornings in the CNN Newsroom, beginning 6am ET/ 3am PT.

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. truthplease

    only problem is, through his cheating (primarily blood doping) he was part of a culture that made cheating mandatory to compete....blood doping leads to hyperviscosity and heart attacks...many, many heart attacks that US journalists don't report. Google "outside magazine epo deaths"...ok, he raised money for cancer awareness but he is also responsible for promoting a culture of dangerous doping practices.

    August 6, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
  2. Mark Felt

    Of course it matters if he cheated! His entire empire has been built on the premise that he overcame great odds through hard work and determination alone. If he doped, than everything that he has gained and everything he has built around him has been built on a lie!

    Is THAT the message we should embrace? That as long as you do good and, more importantly it seems, deny to the very end all the increasingly overwhelming evidence against you, then it's all OK?!

    And how, exactly, has that $325 million worked out? Do we have a cure yet? It's time to grow-up and stop looking for manufactured heroes.

    August 6, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  3. Dave Aubin

    TJ,
    I don`t think Ms Pina was accurate to say that only 7500 babies are born each year from undocumented tourist.Who pays the bill????
    If there 15 million undocumented people here now,who pays to have all those babies.If you are a tourist,do you have Cash or American insurance,and if you are hear illegally who do they send the hospital bill to?You know who pays!!!
    The working men and Woman of this Country.Legal Citizens who pay for insurance and taxes.
    I think Ms Pina should be challenged on her obvious attempt to mislead you and this nation.

    August 6, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  4. Smith in Oregon

    The Tour de France has the most extreme drug testing for any sport and Lance Armstrong willingly underwent all of the testing on each of the 7 tour wins that he has. American readers couldn't even count the vast numbers of cyclists and nations around the world that are absolutely jealous over that extreme cycling record.

    Lance Armstrong is an American cycling hero and this outrageous attempt to smear and demean his accomplishes and ability's are nothing but crass and baseless.

    August 6, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  5. Lisa

    TJ, this is truly a puzzler. My question would be – IF Armstrong was doping – how long was he doping? The entire time? One year? Two? Three or more?

    Yes, cheating is cheating whether it was one time or 7 but considering the money he has raised for cancer, a one time transgression might be forgivable.

    Then again, since I consider watching cycling almost as boring as watching paint dry, I blame him more for treating Sheryl Crow badly 🙂

    August 6, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  6. Chris

    TJ,
    There is no question Lance has done great things for cancer research, and I don't believe he cheated, but he is a hero in the eyes of many and when heroes fail, or cheat, it crushes people that love and respect them. So no, it can't be a good thing.

    August 6, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  7. Brenda Blackwelder

    There is a huge difference between allegations and substantiated charges and it is all too easy for someone to destroy a persons reputation by making public allegations. The validity (or non-validity) of the allegations becomes lost in the media frenzy of analysis and even when a person is vindicated the "taint" remains because people associate the accused with the accusations long after the person is vindicated. I believe that it is the responsibility of the media to refrain from magnifying allegations and to report on them only if they are shown to be valid (innocent until proven guilty). When allegations are shown to be false I think it is the responsibility of the media to delve into the motives of the person(s) making the false allegations and reporting the findings.

    I respect you as a reporter and appreciate why you are posing this question because it raises valid philosophical issues...but if it may cause anyone to assume Lance Armstrong is "guilty" when he insists he isn't prior to the charges being fully substantiated I think we should wait to pose the question.

    I think the question is valid...are all "laws" immutable and valid? If so, perhaps he should have been charged with speeding during the Tour de France!

    Regarding blood-doping...This was common practice in cyclists prior to strenuous rides...long before it became "illegal". I wonder how many people realize that blood-doping does not refer to drugs but to injecting more red blood cells (often from one's own blood that has been taken and kept for this purpose) to increase the oxygen-carrying capacity during strenuous exercise. I knew a physician who did this before trekking in the Himalayas so that he wouldn't suffer from altitude sickness.

    In any event where participants are from different altitudes, the hemoglobin factor will play a role in performance because people from lower altitudes will do poorly in high altitudes because of the "thinner" air. It takes the body a couple weeks or more to build up the rbc/hemoglobin content naturally.

    I would raise the question...is any "contest" fair when the environment results in a decrease in their normal athletic ability at the altitude where they normally perform?

    I think this issue is being blown out of proportion.

    August 6, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  8. Julie

    Please don't speak for the 'we' when it comes cycling's popularity. I can name 30 cyclists, but I can't name a NFL football player. The beauty of sport is there is something for everyone, your generalizations demonstrate a lack of tolerance and make you seem a bit foolish. The real substance of your article provided an interesting perspective, but your lead-in rubbish...not very dignified.

    August 6, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  9. Bella

    ...and wouldn't it also be a good thing if the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus came over for dinner tonight?

    Just because you *want* something to be so isn't a reason to shy away from finding the truth. Also, the amount of money raised by Livestrong - while undeniably impressive - is a very minor part of all money spent in the world on cancer research. Research to combat cancer will go on uninterrupted, even if Armstrong is found guilty.

    Right now, the feds are investigating whether the people associated with Armstrong's cycling career and his team violated actual federal laws. It's about fraud, possible tax evasion, violation of drug laws, etc. It's not about whether we can hang on to the myth that someone can win the Tour de France 7 times without using performance enhancing drugs.

    August 6, 2010 at 9:55 pm |
  10. Loi

    This is the big question that I have had about Lance. We all have bad and good in us and in the end does the end justify the means. Who knows? Sadly for Lance Armstrong, he may have to pay a hefty price if there is proof that he was doping. Do I think he was doping? Yes. Does that negate all the great work he has done for cancer research? Does that negate all the hope and inspiration he has provided to millions of people like me? No. Does that give him a free pass if these allegations can be proven. Probably not. But at the end of the day, Lance Armstrong is like the rest of us. Human and flawed.

    August 6, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
  11. alen

    Lance Armstrong Foundation does not fund cancer research. All these articles about Lance keep saying that it is a research organization. But they havent offered a research grant for several years – and when they did give research grants, it was very little compared to other organizations. Unfortunately, they also do not correct the record when being classified as a "research" foundation.

    August 7, 2010 at 6:02 am |
  12. Alicia

    "There is a huge difference between allegations and substantiated charges and it is all too easy for someone to destroy a persons reputation by making public allegations"

    Amen, sister!

    August 11, 2010 at 9:35 am |