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Armstrong Comes Clean…

…About being totally unclean. But what does it all mean?


Photo: Riccardo S. Savi / Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

According to numerous reports, Lance Armstrong will visit our national confessor Oprah Winfrey tomorrow, and fess up to what — let's be honest here — we've all known for years: that the dude used performance enhancing drugs on his way to the most successful cycling career in history. Apparently, his primary reason for doing so is a desire to keep competing in triathlons, which he's forbidden from doing as long as his current lifetime ban from Olympic sports is in effect. He also may testify against others in a pending federal whistle blower case.

Which. . . Fine. Great! He should have done so a long time ago. But regardless, does any of this change the fact that Lance Armstrong is the greatest cyclist in history? We're talking about a sport that, when it came to juicing, was like baseball on, well, steroids. EVERYONE was doing it. And most of them got busted. Lance was not only a better cyclist than the rest, he was better at not getting caught. That doesn't mean he wasn't the best. After all, it was, by most accounts, a level playing field that he dominated.

This doesn't excuse the cheating, it just means we need to put things in proper context. Much like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, suspected juicers who were denied induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame despite being two of the best players in history, Armstrong seems like a real asshole. Sure he's raised millions through his Livestrong charity, he bounced back from cancer, yada, yada. But the dude seems like the kind of hyper-competitive prick that would do whatever it took to win, especially if everyone else was doing the same.

So what does this "coming clean" mean? Clemens and Bonds will likely make the Hall eventually, and having done his nationally televised penance, Armstrong will likely be remembered as the best cheater in a generation of cheaters. He cheated better than anyone else, but he also rode a bike better than anyone else. Will his reputation ever bounce back? Of course not. Armstrong was one of the most deified athletes in memory, and there's no way his reputation will ever be fully restored. And the likelihood that his Tour de France titles will ever be reinstated is similarly slim. But that doesn't mean he wasn't the best – that if everyone in the Tour was clean, he wouldn't still be the best. We'll never know, of course, but either way, the interview should make for good TV. Tune in tomorrow.

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