Athletes and deception
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 17, 2013 | 2128 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lance Armstrong listens as he is interviewed by talk show host Oprah Winfrey during taping for the show "Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive" in Austin, Texas. Photo: Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc./George Burns/File
Lance Armstrong listens as he is interviewed by talk show host Oprah Winfrey during taping for the show "Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive" in Austin, Texas. Photo: Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc./George Burns/File
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Our favorite punch-line of the week has the disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong looking at the story of the Notre Dame linebacker’s fake girlfriend and quipping: Now that’s elaborate.

It’s been that kind of week for sports fans, one where many will sigh and despair.

Armstrong, who could claim seven Tour de France titles before they were stripped from him last year, admitted this week what has been widely accepted for months. Namely, that Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs while dazzling the world with his bicycle racing.

Speaking with Oprah Winfrey in an interview televised Thursday, Armstrong admitted his misdeeds after more than a decade of repeated denials.

Into this drama comes another story of an athlete and deception. Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker who was a finalist for this year’s Heisman Trophy, is caught up in a story involving the supposed death of a girlfriend who did not exist.

Te’o and Notre Dame officials say that the football player is the victim of a hoax. Others aren’t so sure Te’o is blameless.

Early in the 2012 football season, a storyline caught fire about Te’o. We were told the linebacker’s girlfriend died of leukemia on the same day his grandmother died. Despite his grief at the passing of two people so close to him, Te’o led the Fighting Irish to victory over Michigan State and eventually an undefeated regular season.

Such stories of overcoming tragedy are like gold for TV networks with big-money contracts to broadcast college sports. The hype machine kicked in and Te’o’s story spread across the nation.

While the death of his grandmother was real, Deadspin.com reported this week that the girlfriend Lennay Kekua was fake.

In a statement released Wednesday, the football star called the incident “incredibly embarrassing.” If it’s proven that Te’o played any role in spreading this deception, the shame will grow even worse.

It’s difficult to see how Armstrong’s shame could be worse. He’s already betrayed the trust of millions. The cyclist and his win-at-all-costs mindset has left a trail of crushed former teammates, friends and business associates. Once they were no longer useful to the driven Armstrong, they were cast aside.

Somewhere in that heap are fans of Armstrong. Some were moved by his ability to overcome cancer and succeed at the very top of a demanding sport. Others were converts to a sport where most of the dominant competitors hale from Europe.

Both achievements will survive Armstrong’s scandal. His Tour de France victories will remain as impressive displays of athleticism and overcoming a life-threatening disease. (And, if we’re honest, most of his cycling competitors were cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs.)

However, very little brings comfort when considering how America is watching more of its sports heroes slip off their pedestals.
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