If you get a chance you should watch The Armstrong Lie
Whether you're a cycling enthusiast or not, it makes for fascinating watching. As I was watching it with my friend who currently lives with us (which I can highly recommend as it means I offload all my chores onto him), I started to think about why the Lance Armstrong doping fiasco made my belly squirm with disgust. How could an internationally renowned figure who transcends the sport because of his incredible story have become a cheat?
Armstrong made history by winning the Tour de France seven times. That alone was an achievement. To do it after being diagnosed with testicular cancer seemed like a miracle. While Armstrong was hailed as one of the world’s great sportsmen there were those that suspected an ugly secret.
It was only two years ago (2012) that the truth about Armstrong’s devious double life came out when some fellow team riders of Armstrong’s announced their reliance on doping which aided their quest to win the Tour. After countless interviews in which Armstrong had denied any performance enhancing techniques, saying that it would be a manipulation of justice and compassion to all those who had supported the Livestrong campaign – Armstrong’s own charity raising money for testicular cancer after his own battle with the disease – it became apparent that he had in fact lead one of the most ‘sophisticated doping programme ever’. Armstrong has since been stripped of all his Tour wins and has become somewhat of a 'hate figure' in modern day sport.
However it wasn’t necessarily the drug taking that particularly struck me about this saga, although the continuous denial of it was disgraceful. What was particularly disconcerting was the fact that doping was so common amongst the cycling world during the 90s and the decade after, that professional cyclists felt they couldn’t perform on an equal playing field if they didn’t dope. This then lead to what was known as the Omerta or Code of Silence in which cyclist did not discuss or acknowledge the existence of performance enhancing techniques.
What comes out in the interviews with Armstrong’s team mates is how prevalent the Omerta was and how much power Armstrong wielded over his team. No one dared say anything about Armstrong and the lengths that he went to ensure that he won without detection was truly shocking (you can read it for yourself, but blood bags and used needles in coke cans says it all).
It would be easy to put this down to simple peer pressure
That cyclists gave in to pressure to perform better under the influence of doping. There is no doubt that this was part of it. But I think there’s more responsibility on the riders themselves, as individuals. After all, they made the decision to better themselves hoping that their deceitful behaviour would not be uncovered. Furthermore the remorse that was shown by some of the riders revealed that there was a deep sense of guilt and a realisation that they could not continue to live with the secret that was eating away at them. They realised that rather than blaming others, the responsibility ultimately lay with them.
When we screw up, follow the crowd, do something that is against God’s will for our life, it’s too easy to say that everyone was doing it or “never mind God will forgive me”. We don’t do what is said in Romans 6 which is to sin so that grace may abound, banking on God’s grace and forgiveness as a Get Out Of Jail Free card.
As Christians we are called to be different but it doesn’t just stop there
Jim Elliott, who is a personal hero of mine was a missionary to a people group in Ecuador. He illustrated the life of a Christian as a forked road. When people meet us, we display Christ so much in our lives that they are forced to make a decision, whether to follow the path that leads to Christ, or not.
It’s an easy lifestyle if we call ourselves a Christian but are no different to anyone else. If we give in to the voices around us and not take responsibility for our own decisions and actions then we don’t truly represent Christ. We must get it right.
James Lee is Head of Communications at Something More. He is also a teacher and lives in Bristol with his wife where he has discovered a new found love for power drills.