If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.
For a time Lance Armstrong lived a fairy tale life. A survivor of testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain, he overcame this obstacle to become a seven time winner of the Tour de France. Such success in the face of adversity led to lucrative endorsement deals with companies such as Nike, Annheuser-Busch, and Oakley. Armstrong’s golden boy image was further enhanced by the cancer foundation he established. The LiveStrong foundation became a source of hope for millions, and the little yellow bracelets distributed by the Lance Armstrong Foundation became a social icon. For millions who struggled with cancer, or had a loved one who was battling this disease, Lance Armstrong’s life became a source of great hope.
Had these facts been the sum and total of Lance Armstrong’s life, he would truly have left an inspiring legacy. Yet, beneath the facade of success and the image of a champion there were rumors of cheating. Doping, the use of banned, performance enhancing drugs, has fallen as a plague on the sport of cycling in recent years. From 1999-2005, the years in which Lance Armstrong won his record seven tour events, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency reported that 20 of the 21 riders on the podium have been “directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations” or other means. It added that of the 45 riders on the podium between 1996 and 2010, 36 were by cyclists “similarly tainted by doping…”
There have been a number of high-profile cyclists who have been stripped of their medals and banned from the sport recently. Rumors persisted that Lance Armstrong had employed illegal means to achieve his victories. The International sport of cycling relied upon blood and urine tests to catch those who were seeking an illegal advantage. Lance Armstrong had submitted routinely to such testing and had never been caught. Yet it was known that his cycling team employed physicians who had been linked to doping.
Reports from team-members, and associates began to surface, giving testimony to the fact that Lance Armstrong had practiced doping. Armstrong’s defense repeatedly was that he had never had a positive indication of doping from a blood or urine test. Armstrong survived several challenges in this manner, while the USADA contended that Armstrong’s cycling team had employed such sophistication in their doping schemes that they were able to pass the chemical analysis being used.
In the end, it seems that Armstrong relied too much upon gaming the system through sophisticated medical practices, while neglecting to consider the importance of eye witness accounts.
The Bible states that an accusation is not valid if there is only one witness testifying to a matter. The principle has been that there must be two or three witnesses for a matter to be established (Deuteronomy 17:6). This requisite number has been greatly exceeded in the case of Lance Armstrong. As a result, the USADA banned Lance Armstrong from all international events which it oversees. The Tour de France vacated all seven of Armstrong’s victories, and all of the sponsors that had endorsement contracts with him canceled. The final insult occurred when Armstrong was forced to resign as chairman of the cancer foundation that he created and which had been indelibly linked to his name.
Cheat to Win
Those who have truly been cheated are the cancer victims and their loved ones who embraced the LiveStrong Foundation wholeheartedly as a symbol of hope and courage. Lance Armstrong was the face of this organization, and now his name conjures up associations of lying, cheating, and fraud. The Internet is rife with reports of people re-thinking their views of this very popular institution and its chief spokesman.
Others, however, who saw Armstrong as a symbol of hope and solidarity were completely devastated by his fall, with some cynically wondering if Livestrong was a front to deflect attention from doping allegations.
“It seemed that only a few years after his early comeback, he reverted into the same crass and cocky fella he was known to be pre-cancer. He lost any humility and never seemed contrite or thankful to be alive anymore,” iReporter Paul Smeulders said. ‘It appeared he started using LIVESTRONG as a brand to elevate himself and as a shield to cover or dodge criticism of his unsportsmanlike behavior.”
Wendy Adams of Manchester, Pennsylvania, and her sisters have been wearing their yellow bracelets since their father was diagnosed with end stage prostate cancer in 2004.
“We bought bracelets for more strength, for unity, and suddenly Lance wasn’t just an athlete any longer, he was hope,” Adams, 51, said in a CNN iReport. “We were connected to others who were proudly wearing the same [bracelet] yet living this horror of cancer, all of us, together with Lance, a man who went through it, and came out stronger and better.”
When her father died in 2005, the family respected his wish to be cremated wearing the bracelet and spent $200 dollars on the bracelets for family and friends to hand out.
Now, she says she can’t wear the bracelet with pride anymore because of its connection to Armstrong and the organization. She has taken it off and vows to never again wear it.
“My heart is broken by this news. I never thought Lance was involved in doping, I thought he was above it, an honest man with integrity and honor,” she said. “Lance is Livestrong, he is the face of hope. And when that face is that of a liar, a manipulator, for me? I can’t wear it with pride anymore…”
“Seven Tour de France wins is a long time to keep up a lie. He was worshipped (sic) and adored by many people,” said Rosado, 42.
“If you can’t accomplish the feat without cheating then it is not a feat,” he said. “It is a lie, and lots of people were looking up to those lies.”
(Note: Image is of Armstrong’s former teammate Floyd Landis who was charged with doping in 2006 and stripped of his Tour de France medal.)
It is shattering to fall from the heights. To rise to the pinnacle of honor and glory only to have it all erased is a devastating blow. Yet, to have one’s name and reputation become a synonym for cheating and lying, and to become an icon of shame, is truly tragic.
Lance Armstrong – Liar
The hubris of mankind is observed in the fact that Lance Armstrong believed he could game the system and get away with it. He received the glory and the accolades of a champion when he had not competed according to the rules. He was enriched with magnificent endorsement deals that were all based upon fraud and deception.
In this story is a parable for Christians today. There are many who have made a name for themselves. They have learned to achieve success through carnal methods. Their names have risen until even the worldly have taken note of them. There are myriads of Christians who have found success in this fallen world system. The church has patterned itself after the ways of the world. The church has its shining stars. Big name ministries and ministers are all the rage. Preachers of prosperity have accumulated legions of followers. They produce a stream of books with lucrative publishing contracts. They are paid exorbitant salaries by their churches and ministries.
The church also has its entertainment icons. The Christian music industry is identical to the secular. It seeks to stir the souls of men and women with professionally produced and skillfully engineered music and lyrics. An image is created around the singers and groups. Sex, attractiveness, and worldly success, or whatever titillates and stirs interest, is used to increase popularity.
Among the membership of the church there is also a cadre of the successful and popular. The church has adopted the mindset of the Laodiceans. They equate material prosperity, ease, and comfort with spiritual success. Yet, like Lance Armstrong, a great many in the church have not been competing according to the rules. They have been gaming the system. They have fooled the majority and appear successful outwardly, yet God has a very different view of things.
You say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent… He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Lance Armstrong is like the emperor who was shown to not be wearing any clothes. His nakedness has been uncovered. His victories were all cheats and deception. The image of a champion was an illusion that fooled some for a season. Even so, many in the church will have the facade of spiritual success stripped away and their nakedness will be exposed. Their wealth will be revealed to be poverty. Their success will be exposed as defeat.
Christ revealed through His life that the way to life, and to honor and reward before the Father, is a life of humility and suffering. He stated:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is afflicted that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
To receive glory and honor at the Father’s hands you must compete according to the rules. One of the rules is that you must surrender your life and take up your cross to follow Christ. There is an afflicted path appointed to all who would be numbered among the overcomers in Christ. If you have been choosing your own course in this world, a course of comfort and ease, then you are gaming the system. You may fool a great many people, and even gain the approval of the majority in the church, but there is One who is Judge who will show no partiality. It is not possible to deceive the One with whom we must deal.
Are you walking humbly before God and man? Have you given the reins of your life over into the hands of the Father for Him to guide you wherever He desires? Have you counted all things of this world as loss in exchange for gaining Christ? Are you enduring hardship, and remaining free of worldly entanglements that you might please the One who has chosen you?
If you are being led by your own soul down the path you are walking, you are not competing according to Yahweh’s rules. His word states:
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
Can your life be described as a “Spirit-led life”? Are you bearing your cross, denying your own soul’s desires, and choosing first the kingdom of God?
Don’t let the tragedy of Lance Armstrong be the story of your life. Shame and disgrace and great sorrow will be the portion of many when they appear before the throne of God and are recompensed for the life they have led.
“I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Many who are first in this life will be last, and many last will be first. Many are called by God to the wedding feast of the Lamb, but few are chosen. There are multitudes of Christians who are choosing to partake of their good things now. They are eschewing the cross and suffering. A day of great calamity awaits them when they will be stripped of their reputation and comforts and worldly attainment.
It is far better to be reproached, rejected, and little esteemed in this world, to eat the bread of poverty and to endure hardship now, following in the steps of Christ while looking to the reward to come, than it is to receive one’s good things now and receive shame and reproach at the appearing of Christ.
Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Yahshua. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
Are you competing according to the rules of Yahweh’s kingdom? Are you running a good race that you might receive the reward? In time, all will be disclosed and nothing hidden.