One more God has fallen from the sporting pantheon. Reports state everywhere that legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong has confessed to doping on the still to be aired Oprah Winfrey show.
While the US cyclist has strenuously denied doping allegations for years, his halo had dimmed considerably earlier when a 1,000-page report by the US Anti-Doping Agency put him at the epicentre of the biggest doping scandal in cycling. Most sports followers knew that the extensive report had nailed Armstrong. Yet, so many did not want to believe it.
In a world cleaved by conflict, jealousy, injustice and violence, sport is panacea. It is sporting icons like Armstrong that give people an escape into a world where there are two sides, each striving for excellence; there is fair play, and one side wins; sport stands for dedication and all those ideals that a cynical age has little or no respect for.
When sportsmen cheat, they smash the bedrock of the fan-sporting hero relationship: faith. Like in any relationship one side feels, cheated, made a fool of and no matter how aggressive the clean up operation is, those wounds never really heal.
Cricket, for example has never fully recovered from match-fixing allegations that embroiled it in controversy years earlier. Even now, so many cricket matches have the fans screaming ‘fix’. It is a great injustice to players who win fair and square, to find that fans doubt their performance or suspect that the other team has thrown the match.
That is what cheats in sport do: destroy faith forever, taint their sport perhaps irrevocably and drive a deep wedge between the game and its fans. All ramifications aside, Armstrong has deceived those who made him who he was the fans who came from everywhere to watch him ride like the wind.