Lance Armstrong with Oprah Winfrey

Lance Armstrong with Oprah Winfrey

Lance Armstrong has finally come clean and admitted that he had used performance-enhancing drugs for years. This is after years of vigorous and sometimes vicious denials of his practice. In fact,for years, during his reign as cycling’s ultimate champion, Armstrong went after his critics ruthlessly. He scolded some in public and didn’t hesitate to punish outspoken riders during the race itself. He waged legal battles against still others in court. At least one of his opponents, the London-based Sunday Times, has already filed a lawsuit to recover about $500,000 it paid him to settle a libel case, and Dallas-based SCA Promotions, which tried to deny Armstrong a promised bonus for a Tour de France win, has threatened to bring another lawsuit seeking to recover more than $7.5 million awarded by an arbitration panel. A lot of lives were ruined by Armstrong’s actions or those of his supporters during this time.

USA Today’s respected sportswriter, Christine Brennan wrote: “Lance Armstrong is not sorry that he doped. He’s sorry that he got caught. The worst cheater in the history of sports has come clean not because it’s the right thing to do, but because he must believe it’s the expedient thing to do.
Devastated by his new reality, one that prevents him from competing in sanctioned triathlons and marathons for the rest of his life, Armstrong wanted a quick fix. He wanted to take care of his latest and greatest problem the way he has handled every other issue in his career: by getting rid of it.”

There is great sympathy for Armstrong, a high profile cancer survivor, whose Livestrong charity has raised millions for cancer research and assistance. Many are hopeful that Armstrong’s revelations will not seriously damage its fine and vital contribution to eradicating this disease.

Yet I find myself agreeing with Brennan. Armstrong’s lies were bad enough, but that they seriously damaged the lives of others – including some of his closest friends, fellow cyclers, and family cannot be simply wiped clean because he has come clean. If Armstrong is truly contrite, if this is not simply a calculated ploy to be reinstated as a cycler, then the time has come for him to seriously, intentionally, and passionately work to make amends and restitution to those he has harmed. And it should not require a court order or a chance to return to the Tour to bring this about.

As a Christian I believe in forgiveness and restoration. I also believe in restitution. When finally opening his heart to God’s grace, Zaccheus declares, “If I have harmed anyone, I will repay them threefold.” 1st century tax collectors working for Rome were notorious thieves. Zaccheus was not being dissembling, he was being contrite

David wrote in the Psalms, “A broken and contrite heart you will not despise, O God.” (Psalm 51:17) Tears alone and a public stage are not necessarily signs of brokenness and contrition. It is what follows that ultimately demonstrates what’s in the heart.


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