Mandela Rhodes Scholars
Mandela Rhodes Scholars

Reflecting on Lance Armstrong’s flaws

By Melo Magolego

I think Lance should hang up his racing shorts and head for the world of national politics. Truly this man’s other talents are lying in waste. Watching him in his interview with Oprah I thought him to be very intelligent: he gives measured responses, effortlessly tames negative questions and then masterfully spins them into positives. His evasiveness is second only to a primary school hide and seek champion. He calculates everything to portray him in the best light.

Surely Americans are not so dumb as to allow someone with such a dubious history to rise to the highest offices of the land? I invoke one of the greatest religious thoughts: that of man as a sinner, a being forever condemned in his futile attempts at perfection. All that Lance needs do is to seek religious redemption and become a poster boy for the “I once was blind but now I see” constituency. He needs to become a towering example of true grace even in the face of man’s insurmountable ineptitude. I think his PR advisor was thinking similarly with Lance’s “I am a flawed” man statement.

But watching that interview something he said took me back to my days in primary school. Do you remember those multiple choice questions where you had to say whether a whole paragraph was true or false, bad or good? What made me think of this was Lance saying how, if somebody says three things and two of those are correct, but one of them is incorrect, then the whole thing according to him is false. This one false thing would then serve as basis for attacking and vilifying such a person. So, by that same measure, the fact that he transgressed the doping regulations, lied about it, but also raised half a million dollars for cancer … does that make him good, or bad?

I think being the sinners that we are (to borrow phraseology), we are constantly seeking those who are pure embodiments of those virtues and talents which we believe lie deep within each of us, but are starved of airtime by the humdrum of everyday living. These are virtues which, like Oros juice concentrate, everyday living requires served in diluted proportions.

These heroes are stripped of all nuances in our minds lest they sully the image or dull the effect they would otherwise have, or blur the contrast between virtue and its antithesis. So it is not that we are incapable of holding a person in the excluded middle state of both good and bad, but rather that we do not do so precisely because they are our heroes. We are not upset that Lance lied, but rather we are upset that his innate talent was not enough.
I guess that is the paradox: had Lance transcended beyond human achievement with only that which is within him, then he would be a god. In being a god he must, though, have the common touch so that we can easily project our inner selves onto him. But for him to manifest that human quality without his ”transcendence” almost undermines the worth of our own Oros — it calls it into question.

Michelle Obama once said that being president doesn’t change who you are but instead reveals who you are. Perhaps Lance’s fall hurts us because he might have revealed to us who we may really be. With that belief destroyed, the balance of good and bad which he straddles becomes irrelevant.

Melo is also a Fulbright scholar and read for his master’s in electrical engineering at Caltech. Follow him on Twitter: @melomagolego

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    • Barb

      This is a brilliant, bang-on blog. Looking to reading more from you from the other side of the world.

    • Stephen

      Disagree Melo. Sure I am incredibilty miffed that Lance lied. But the litany of deceipt, cheating, drug taking, humiliating others and down right skullduggery really, really incenses me. Without the whole pernicuous package he just would not have been ‘Lance’. Hate it that I have been led up the garden path for the best part of a decade. But I have just been embarrased – think of the pain inflicted on all those directly in his way.

      But where I do agree is that he’s now well qualified to become a politician or a preacher.

    • The Critical Cynic

      So many potential parallels between Lance Armstrong and Jacob Zuma. Certainly that last sentence resonates as the balance of good and bad which Jacob straddles has become completely irrelevant to South African politics.

      So why wouldn’t Americans be so dumb as to let someone like Lance with his dubious history rise to the highest office? They voted, for example, Nixon, Reagan and the Bush dynasty in didn’t they? They didn’t vote in Gore when they should have so there’s no rationale to say a population, any population, can’t make poor voting decisions. SA politics epitomises poor decisions at voting time and will most likely prove it again next year. It’s been like this here for many decades now…

      Let’s get Zuma onto the Oprah show for some kiss and tell along with some of Jacob’s lovely homespun ‘logic’. We could substitute it for his ‘day in court’ with much better economics than the legal costs, and perhaps we could bring in Judge Judy for a snap judgement on his honesty and integrity at the end of the interview (as long as Zuma is ok with her being white)…

    • seriously

      In his interview i thought that the only truth was from the yes or no answers . I think he is one of worst people on this planet . He ruined the lives of so many people and made them to be liars , while they were telling the truth . He even took them to court … Im sorry , but saying everyone dopes is no excuse , and even if you say sorry to people who was hurt now it wont change a thing . Poletics? I believe jail is a better place for him , he lied under oath and he took drugs . If some of the people who spoke out against him tells the truth he distributed too . The investigation that was dropped … He was even wearing his livestrong armband in his interview , that is just a insult to the orginisation . If i were Lance i wouldnt show my face in public again ,

    • LittleBobPete

      Fair comment Melo. You should also read up exactly what has happend to the cash that dear Lance says has been raised for cancer research. VERY LITTLE of the cash raised has actually gone into research.
      Huge sums have been spent on litigation, against people who were threatening the Lance / Livstrong machine. Huge sumes have been spent on marketing both Lance and Livstrong.
      He has used the cancer research statement as his “justification” but if you look at the cash raised (some $500 million) vs the cash spent on research (only approximatley $20 million) you will see that less than 10% of the cancer money has been spent on research, contrary to what the pathalogical liar says.