i Editor's Letter: Does Armstrong's admission of “cheating” negate this extraordinary charitable achievement?


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The Independent Online


Who remembers Happy Days? The fabulous 1970s American comedy series starred Henry Winkler as one of television’s immortal characters, Arthur Fonzarelli, the drop-out biker with a heart of gold. “The Fonz” had a big problem with apologising. His “S-s-s-s-s-so-sooorrry” became a running joke.

Lance Armstrong’s belated admission to Oprah Winfrey that he doped recalled the Fonz. Rarely has a man appeared less comfortable apologising than he did. Despite a post-cancer career of doping that has destroyed his reputation, brought down colleagues and tarnished a sport, Armstrong seemed less concerned with making amends and more focused on spreading the blame: everyone was at it!

The repercussions of this are discussed elsewhere. I want to ask a much more basic question: can he redeem himself? Will we all forgive someone who not only doped but sued the hell out of anyone who had the temerity to say he doped; someone who lived the “one big lie” and covered it up aggressively for so long? Is Armstrong, like any lesser-known person who has committed worse crimes, due Christian (or any other) forgiveness? Does everyone really deserve a second chance? Even those who have shirked so many opportunities to recant?

He has no future in sport. But charity? His Livestrong campaign has raised $500m (£315m) since 1997 and is still “strong”. Armstrong is not the monstrous Jimmy Savile. He was not abusing the very people he purported to help. Does the admission of “cheating” negate this extraordinary charitable achievement? Who are we to say it does? His is one of the saddest of falls from grace. Yet another hero with feet of clay. But, somehow, I feel not all is lost. What about you?