It's easy to sit there and pontificate whether or not you believe Lance Armstrong was doping. Everybody seems to have an opinion, and everybody seems to somehow know whether or not he is guilty of the doping charges brought against him. The following commentary is not rooted in analyzing whether or not he took performance-enhancing substances. Rather, it is a look inside the mind of the know-it-alls, the people with all the answers, who know beyond a shadow of a doubt the reasons why Armstrong has ended his fight.
A good measure of talk today was directed at Armstrong's refusal to continue the battle with his accusers. This is looked at, in many people's eyes, as an admisssion of guilt. That notion might very well be true, but it's almost comical when one heard the opinions of sports talk hosts and callers who were debating this issue all day long. There were the rubber-stamp, no-doubt-about-it statements from some talk-show hosts that declared that him "giving up" could only be looked at as if Armstrong had something to hide. The claim is that because he doesn't want to open up Pandora's Box or reveal what's behind Door #3, that's an ironclad statement that says, "Yes, I am guilty..."
Is it possible that Armstrong is guilty? No question, in fact a lot of us have come to that conclusion based upon the skeptical sports world we live in. We can rationalize his wins by putting the onus on elevated levels of testostrone. We can lump him in with seemingly every other member of that U.S. Postal Service team, a group of cyclists that has overly admitted to cheating the sport. Guilt by association? Yeah, you could go that way. No way Armstrong didn't know what was going on within his own racing team, right? Sure, if you want to take that position, then yes, that is a fair argument to bring to the table.
But the notion that people KNOW that Lance Armstrong was skirting the system and shooting himself up is laughable. Furthering the point, to suggest that one knows the reasoning behind Armstrong's decision to cry Uncle, and that somehow this proves he wasn't as innocent as he claims to be, is folly. That opinion is valid, but to put that out on the airwaves, as if somehow your knowledge of the situation is superior to that of Armstrong's and of his family's, is unfair to the process. Because Armstrong alleges that he has passed every drug test he has ever taken, many people find it hard to believe that he has done the unthinkable.
The baseball comparison is ridiculous on a lot of levels as well. Filling in for Jim Rome's show today, Damon Bruce of KNBR San Francisco chastized caller after caller for suggesting that Armstrong passing those tests was something of a significant point. Bruce repeatedly asked listeners whether Barry Bonds had ever failed a test for steroids. The answer was no, but the problem with comparing is that Bonds was getting ripped on human growth hormone, for which there was no test. How can you fail a test when it's not one you been subjected to?
The fact that Armstrong decided to waive the white flag is not neccessarily a sign that he's avoiding further inquiry. While it is entirely feasible to have come to that conclusion, that doesn't make it right. It most definitely doesn't make it wrong either, but the tone of many "talking heads" today was that they swung their gavels with unchallenged authority. State your opnion, but don't dress it up as fact. Give us something to chew on, but don't spit it out as it's the last word on the subject.
The open dialogue on whether or not Armstrong took us for a ride (pun obnoxiously intended) is a healthy one. But that's all it is, a discussion, a debate. You're not the judge and jury, but merely a courtoom visitor. Armstrong may have very well cheated, but it is also possible that he got sick of spinning his wheels (oh yeah) on the subject. His assertion that the unending scrutiny was taking a toll on his family, which was in part what led to his decision, should be respected at the very least. Throwing in the towel ensures that the open-ended questions will never have to be answered, and that seems to be fine with him.