Another hero poised for fall

According to several national media outlets, cyclist Lance Armstrong is expected to admit to using performance enhancing substances during an interview this week with Oprah Winfrey. After being stripped of his Tour de France titles from 1999-2005, the fallen former superstar is reportedly beginning to apologize for his actions.

His apparent journey was so inspiring, so amazing, we should probably have known it was just too good to be true. An American athlete overcoming cancer to become the most decorated athlete in the most prestigious event of his sport was unfortunately not just a Cinderella story, but in fact a fairy tale, or perhaps even a tall tale.

It also seems to be yet another unfortunate example of a sports hero disappointing his fans, his country, and perhaps most tragically, his family and himself.

The list of scandals involving cheating, dishonesty and other unethical behavior in sport continues to grow across many different arenas. Whether it be the questionable character of a professional golfer, cheating allegations in the NFL, fabricated coaching resumes, or others, there seems to be no end to the disappointing stories.

The only way to avoid these colossal let-downs is to get more realistic about celebrities in general. Whether an outstanding athlete or an award-winning actor, they are all human after all.

Take a regular person, add a ton of talent, mix in boatloads of money and top it off with attention and fame, and it’s no wonder that the elixir can become too intoxicating to resist.

It could make a cynic wonder how any professional athletes can actually hold on to their virtue and their values. And still, so many do.

There are pros who certainly deserve our praise and our respect. But as in all occupations, there are those who warrant merit and those who don’t. Unfortunately, in professional sports, the scandals can ring much louder than the good deeds.

We live in a society that seems to relish in the entertaining sport of building up those with specific talents and putting them on pedestals, only to do our level best to knock them back off again. We love the underdog until they become the champion, and then we just wait or even hope for their eventual and perhaps predictable demise, often through their own actions.

In the case of Lance Armstrong, we could debate the prevalence of doping throughout the sport of cycling, arguing the value of testing, the application of the rules, and other possible flaws in the system.

We can be disappointed in the individual athlete, but we can also appreciate the good to come out of his story, even if all of the chapters were not particularly virtuous.

The Livestrong Foundation has raised millions of dollars to help victims of cancer, and to battle a vicious disease that affects so many.

That is one accomplishment that needs no apology.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.