Lance Armstrong is the worst sports ethics villain of all time, I believe—cycling’s Barry Bonds, but in a sport far more vulnerable to betrayal than baseball. Like Bonds, he cheated, many times and over a long period, taking victories away from more deserving athletes while enriching himself. While Bonds never had his public “I did not have sex with that woman” moment of brazen denial, Armstrong had many, all the while insulting and condemning his accusers. Bonds also never was a revered hero of children—Barry appeared to care about no one but Barry—while Armstrong deliberately made them part of his scam. When Armstrong’s elaborate schemes, lies and cover-ups were revealed, he made lifetime cynics of hundreds of thousands of young fans, and maybe more.
Armstrong, like Bonds, left his sport in disgrace but took with him great wealth, and, like Bonds, has never shown a smidgen of sincere regret or contrition—sociopaths are like that. Yesterday it was announced that Armstrong will pay $5 million to the federal government in settlement of a fraud lawsuit. The U.S. said that he owed $100 million to taxpayers for accepting sponsorship funds for his cycling team from the U.S. Postal Service while he was doping. Armstrong also agreed to pay $1.65 million to cover the legal costs of Floyd Landis, a former Armstrong teammate and the whistleblower in the case.
Eh, whatever. Lance can afford it. Despite various fines and settlements, he managed to escape his exposure with most of his ill-gotten gains safely salted away, spent or invested.
The Justice Department said the settlement showed that “no one is above the law,” after its lawyers described Armstrong as “a doper, dealer, and liar” and a contractor who profited from “years of broken promises.” “A competitor who intentionally uses illegal PEDs not only deceives fellow competitors and fans, but also sponsors, who help make sporting competitions possible,” said Chad Readler, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil division.
Lance, typically, still plays the victim. “I rode my heart out for the Postal cycling team, and was always especially proud to wear the red, white and blue eagle on my chest when competing in the Tour de France. Those memories are very real and mean a lot to me,” he said. “I am glad to resolve this case and move forward with my life. I’m looking forward to devoting myself to the many great things in my life — my five kids, my wife, my podcast, several exciting writing and film projects, my work as a cancer survivor, and my passion for sports and competition. There is a lot to look forward to.”
Meanwhile, someone needs to file a taxpayers suit against the Postal Service, which paid Armstrong’s cycling team $32.3 million between 2000 and 2004 to wear the service’s express delivery logo. No wonder this archaic and inefficient agency is losing money—it tosses millions to the winds like the prospectors in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” What genius pushed through the batty theory that having a bunch of cyclists wearing its logo—offhand, I can’t even recall what the logo is— in a French bicycle race would make a single cent of extra income for the Postal Service?
I wrote about this aspect of the Armstrong debacle almost five years ago, and it still drives me crazy.
Source: Washington Post