Despite relentless allegations of blood doping, PED use, and now the stripping of his Tour de France wins, the early returns suggest that champion cyclist Lance Armstrong surprisingly maintains a solid base of support, from fans and corporate sponsors.

Yes, there are those, like myself, who believe he didn’t win all of his races clean, but based on the reaction I’m seeing on the Internet, and in comments, and interviews, Armstrong’s good works for now seem to far outweigh the avalanche of accusations against him.

But why is that?  What makes Lance Armstrong so different from other big name athletes who‘ve been suspected of PED use but who have not received a similar benefit of the doubt?

Perhaps it’s Armstrong’s philanthropy.  His charitable efforts have tremendous value and have touched the lives of many people.  His foundation, Livestrong, has raised millions of dollars for cancer research, and is helped by the fact that Armstrong is himself a cancer survivor, which only magnifies the good feelings that legions of people still have for him.

As such it is hard for many to accept that Armstrong, who has done so much good for others and personally suffered and almost died, could have been dishonest about his athletic achievements – it is the classic blind eye.

But there is a glaring double standard at work.  The best and most consistent defense that Armstrong and his supporters make is that he never failed an official drug test.  But neither for instance, did Mark McGuire or Sammy Sosa.

Yet, Armstrong remains beloved by millions despite the persistent cloud of scandal hovering overhead, while the two former record breaking sluggers, who helped resuscitate a struggling Major League Baseball, will likely never enter the Hall of Fame.

They are presumed guilty, duly convicted in the court of public opinion.

One obvious reason is that McGuire and Sosa never benefitted from a cynically skilled public relations campaign like the one that has enhanced Armstrong’s image.  Armstrong’s PR effort which now includes throwing in the towel last week and ending the fight against the USADA, has also shrewdly served to turn the focus on the motives and credibility of the USADA itself, which Armstrong said in a statement on his website, will never give him a fair hearing.

And what about the 10 or more people, many of them former teammates, willing to testify under oath that Armstrong consistently used PEDs?  What do we make of them?  No problem for Armstrong.  End the legal battle against the USADA, accept the punishment, and those traitors will never talk for the record and perhaps reveal even more damaging aspects of Armstrong’s world.

For some of you it’s going to take much more than the current evidence and suspicions to turn your backs on a generous American hero like Lance Armstrong, a man who overcame cancer and miraculously became a champion.  But many of you Armstrong supporters also looked at McGuire and Sosa and had no doubt they cheated the game.

The irony is that most of you don’t have a clue why you feel this way – you just do its human nature.  Lance Armstrong is counting on it.

 

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