Lance Armstrong is a shameful liar, yes. Of course, he is. But after Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens and the others, I was not truly surprised to learn that Armstrong had lied to us — as well as, probably, himself — about what he did. He deserves no sympathy. None. I'm not being cruel. I'm being brutally honest.
The biggest sin that Armstrong committed was that he betrayed America's trust in him. We had been so proud of him for winning seven Tour de France races against great odds — basically the accomplishment of beating the European cyclists at their own game. How satisfying it was to see Our Guy displaying the American spirit!
We also got great satisfaction from watching Armstrong evolve from a racing champion to a philanthropic icon. He battled testicular cancer with dignity and courage. Then he helped raise millions of dollars to battle cancer. Armstrong showed he had business acumen as well as athletic gifts. He was a tremendous role model — or so we had all thought.
Armstrong denied for years that he had ever taken performance-enhancing drugs. He insisted that he had never done anything wrong or unethical. We wanted to take him at his word. But he intentionally misled us all the way. We may have suspected that Armstrong was lying all the while but we so wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to a genuine American hero. Armstrong was handsome, charming, determined, and very convincing that he had nothing to hide about his past. He fooled plenty of people.
Armstrong forgot that Americans, while we are a forgiving nation, we don't want to feel snookered. Armstrong made us all feel like fools. But Armstrong now understands a basic fact of life: The cover-up can be more egregious than the actual crime itself. This is a lesson that wrongdoers never seem to grasp.
If nothing else, Lance Armstrong will remind people that the cover-up can be worse for your image than the crime. Not that Armstrong has to worry. His image is shot.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers and Creating a Personal Revolution. Click here to order a copy. Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.
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