It was no great surprise to hear Lance Armstrong dissemble, even as he purported to come clean.
Rather more disturbing was the reaction from New Statesman, which described the cyclist’s coming clean on drugs as a revelation that he was “merely human,” before columnist Nicky Woolf spoke of him “simply admitting to cheating” and threw out this chilling apologia:
“Yes, Armstrong started a charity by selling a narrative of sporting prowess that turned out not to be genuine. But he did genuinely overcome cancer to get there; moreover, Livestrong does and always did good work. What’s honestly better – to tell the truth, and not save other lives, or lie to start a successful charity?”
What is better, Mr Woolf, is to tell the truth and still save other lives, not least because a society that uses charity to legitimise wrongdoing is on a slippery slope indeed. Euthanasia? Hey, it would certainly free up some beds…
No, Lance Armstrong didn’t murder anybody but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t still heinous in his own way. He lied and lied again. He repeatedly hijacked a public platform for his own ends and, by all accounts, wasn’t exactly fussy whom he and his ‘people’ steamrollered whenever accusatory arrows rained down on his bubble.
This goes way beyond the occasional moral stumble envisaged by the term ‘merely human’. This was systemic: cold, callous and ruthless. Organised crime without the bullets.
And when Lance Armstrong is finished taking a long hard look at himself in the mirror, he might care to step aside so that one or two people at the New Statesman can do likewise. They set the bar between frailty and wickedness way too low.