I read on Facebook that because of the ongoing doping allegations regarding Armstrong, a friend of a friend’s 13-year-old son took down the Tour de France winner’s posters in disgust. For a 13-year-old that took a lot of maturity, but at the same time I have to feel sorry for him because he just learned a valuable life lesson about heroes – they are just human.
Hanging on my office wall is a Lance Armstrong poster with the now ironic statement, “This is my body. And I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it. Study it. Tweak it. Listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?”
Like the 13 year old, I believe that Armstrong took an alphabet soup of PEDs during his professional cycling career. However I’m not taking down his poster.
As you can see inside the picture frame I’ve slipped various mementos: a rider’s number from Paris-Roubaix, my certificate of completion from the 2008 L’ Etape du Tour, media stickers and an “in honor of” for my dad from the 24 Hours of Booty that some dear friends rode with. But Armstrong’s message can still be clearly seen.
The Armstrong story is a well crafted narrative. Born to a single mom and rising above adversity to become an elite athlete. But as I look at the poster and see a sprinting Armstrong, it’s no longer the man who I see but the message.
As I sat down to write this, I needed some perspective on my thoughts. My philosophical education consists of four years of Catholic high school and mandatory 101 courses in university. I reached out to my buddy, Biola Assistant University professor of biblical and theological studies Jeff Volkmer.
Basically the painting is of a pipe, but the point of the message beneath the pipe is that it is an image of a pipe, not an actual pipe. And that’s what the Armstrong poster is to me – “This is not an Armstrong.”
So I’m not taking down the poster. I’m looking beyond the photograph of a man riding his bike but focusing on the message and what it means to me. What is an Armstrong? That’s for you to decide.