It hasn’t been a good year for heroes.
Especially for those whose revered accomplishments have come in sports.
A beloved football coach was implicated for his role in a sex-abuse scandal by one of his underlings. A renowned golfer continued to struggle his way back from his own admitted indiscretions that have derailed his career for more than two years. And there have been the usual assortment of bad behaviour and insolence that are often followed by tearful apologies at hastily-called press conferences.
On Monday, one of the biggest heroes of all hit the ground with a resounding thud.
Lance Armstrong’s story of overcoming testicular cancer that had spread throughout his body to win the Tour de France cycling race seven times transcended his sport. It touched the lives of millions around the world facing their own difficult struggle with the disease. It gave them hope. It fueled the resurgence in cycling for health and fitness, sparked charity events like the Ride to Conquer Cancer.
But as cycling’s international governing body affirmed on Monday, it was all built on lies.
Armstrong cheated. He used performance enhancing drugs to achieve his remarkable athletic success. He bullied and enabled those around him to do the same.
Aside from the black mark Armstrong has tarred upon his sport, he’s betrayed the hope and inspiration many took from his story. And he’s carved another sizable notch in the notion that athletes are role models, people to be admired and emulated, an example for young people.
Perhaps it’s time we look for our heroes closer to home, to the people who touch us every day, who live their lives with integrity and honour instead of athletic glory and sponsorship riches.
We might be pleasantly surprised.