When Ravina, one of the sages who compiled the Babylonian Talmud, died, he was eulogized thus: “If the cedars have caught fire what will the hyssops that grow out of the wall say?” (in Hebrew: “אם בארזים נפלה שלהבת מה יגידו אזובי הקיר”). In other words, if the mighty have fallen what will the weak ones say?
In a statement a couple of days ago, cycling legend Lance Armstrong said “enough is enough”. He decided not to contest the drug charges brought against him by the US Anti Doping Agency, describing the entire process as a “charade”. Yesterday he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. He might also lose all other awards and titles he won, including the bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
Armstrong is not just another athlete. He survived testicular cancer to come back and win more titles. His foundation for cancer support LIVESTRONG, made famous by the distinctive yellow wristband worn by millions worldwide, is one of the top ten cancer non-profits in the US. He also ran marathons and competed in triathlons. His self-proclaimed goal is to be “the fittest 40-year old in the world”.
His life story proves that Armstrong does not give up easily. Therefore his decision speaks volumes about his alleged culpability. A part of me, refusing to accept that yet another legendary figure is not the hero we always thought him to be, wishes to give him the benefit of the doubt. But the sad ending of this saga leaves too many open-ended questions for Armstrong to retain his status as a legend.
Another Armstrong famously said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. This step by Lance Armstrong may prove to be a giant leap into the dustbin of sport history.