The View On The Way Down

The evidence is vast in its breath and depth – Lance Armstrong is a lying drug cheat.

A combination of steroids, a blood booster called EPO and various blood transfusions are the methods Armstrong has been accused of utilizing in winning the Tour de France between 1999 – 2005.

Nike has bailed on Armstrong. Trek bicycles and Anheuser-Busch have said goodbye.

Although he remains on the board of the Livestrong Foundation, the cancer awareness charity, he is no longer chairman.

Armstrong might even lose his 2000 Olympic time trial bronze medal!

He is on the precipice of losing everything.

But Armstrong got over for many years. He was a hero and an idol to millions. He was inspiration and perspiration , the classic traits of a true winner – until he was discovered to be a loser.

Our culture and the corporate sponsors bum rush someone who’s on the fast track to genuine celebrity; not the sickening Basketball Wives kind of celebrity, but a person with a true presence in our hearts and minds.

When it’s discovered, amazingly, that the object of our affection is a fallible human, we abandon them with similar speed.

I’m wondering what Lance Armstrong’s reinvention is going to look like.

We are a forgiving lot, we Americans. We are big believers in second chances.  We lift our superstars to the heavens, then we rip them to shreds. We enjoy their fall from grace.

The celebrity assists us in their collapse by making mistakes. Through a sense of entitlement, the feeling that the rules don’t apply to them, they achieve dishonest results, they ride high for a while, then the truth crumbles around them.

But time is a healing balm for the disgraced celebrity. Our memories fade, we move on to the next bright shiny object, and a few years later, many of us wonder what the fuss was all about .

Many or all the professional achievements Lance Armstrong has collected in his adult life are now being taken away.

He will have to reinvent, I believe, by helping others, by being a quiet force for good. One of the best victories Armstrong achieved was his private personal win over cancer. His name, attached to Livestrong, raised a boatload of cash for cancer research.

I see a decade of healing ahead. Armstrong can have his mea culpa, he can suck it up and take the heat, then we will forgive, and he can seek a higher purpose, an authentic purpose in his life.

You see the same people on the way down you did when you were climbing the ladder of status and power.

Armstrong, the disgraced world-famous athlete, is just as alone this week as we would be if we blew up our careers by making a poor ethical decision. He’s no different than we are. He’s just a man.

We have all made occasional ethical shortcuts in our lives and careers; most of ours are small, thankfully. Those who throw too many stones at the fallen heroes in our culture would be wise to avoid self-righteous proclamations and dial it back a little.

What would others find if they turned over all the rocks in our lives? What would an army of Twitter critics and a billion bloggers find, if they really, really looked? Some of us shiver in fear at the thought.

Lance Armstrong cheated in front of the world. You and I have done it from time to time in relative obscurity.

That trip back down from the pinnacle of success is a tough one.  Climb up carefully.

John Scott is the career services manager, national online learning coordinator and a media instructor at the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University, San Francisco. He also counsels clients and groups on the art of reinvention. His debut book Broken Glass and Barbed Wire will be released soon. Follow John on Twitter @johnscottsf.

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