That Lance Armstrong inspired a generation to participate in sport is unquestionable.
That he founded a fantastic charity to raise money to help people affected by cancer will be remembered as his greatest contribution to humanity.
Sadly, that Lance Armstrong masterminded the most ‘sophisticated doping programme that sport has ever seen’ looks as if it is probably true about him too. The evidence would appear to be quite compelling.
Perhaps only his most loyal supporters still cling to the hope that these allegations will be proven false and his name will be cleared once and for all. But that seems highly unlikely now. It seems a foregone conclusion that he cheated his way through what appeared to be a string of outstanding sporting achievements.
Among the many questions Lance Armstrong will need to answer, this situation also forces us to revisit the bigger question of what we actually mean by sporting integrity. And it makes you think about how much cheating actually goes on in the financially lucrative industry of sport.
Not just cheating in the slightly more innocent sense of stealing an extra couple of yards when no-one is looking, or pretending to be fouled when you haven’t; but cheating in the uglier sense of organised match fixing, technical rigging and drug taking. The list goes on and on.
In recent times, it has become increasingly difficult to think of integrity in sport as a given. The sheer amount of money at stake has put paid to that. Much of the cheating that goes on at this level is managed quietly in the background, with team support, and with excruciating attention to detail.
It is usually always a sophisticated operation and sometimes with wider criminal intent.
Sporting integrity is a value that few people believe in now. It is not what we think it should be. Its crystalline purity has been forever tarnished by the dirty fingerprints of human greed – greed for achievement beyond your natural abilities and greed for financial returns not deliverable by honest endeavour.
Plato once described our earthly values as shadowy imitations of those that existed in the metaphysical World of Forms. If nothing else, subscribing to this ideal gives us a glimmer of hope. But it also exploits our weaknesses as human beings. We always want to believe in something better.
Perhaps our biggest failing is that we have been seduced by this way of thinking to assume that integrity in sport ought to exist in some type of platonic sense. How disappointed we are when we finally accept that this just isn’t the case.