The American philosopher and bellwether of cultural conscience Bart Simpson was famous for his reaction to being caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. When caught red handed and guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, he flatly panned “I didn’t do it.” When the Simpsons first aired over twenty years ago, his denials were meant to be humorously ridiculous. Today, they might seem more like a reasonable response when caught in a fib.
Bart came to mind this week as I read in detail the USADA report outlining its case against Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor, winner of 7 Tour de France cycling races, and hero to many. My limited space here is insufficient to get into the specifics, nor is it my intention to infer guilt. Guilt however has already been inferred by no less than 15 former teammates who under oath, testified they witnessed Mr. Armstrong using performance enhancing drugs. Needless to say the response from the Armstrong camp would have made Bartholomew proud. Assuming for a moment that the mountain of evidence against Lance is correct, how then could he he possibly come clean after years of denial? Indeed, as our mothers told us, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
On the rare occasions our erstwhile heroes eventually do apologize, their words sound less like ‘sorry’ and more like ‘sorry I got caught’. I doubt we’ll hear either from Lance, and who can blame him. Recent history is rife with examples of public figures that have chosen to deny deny deny (an uncomfortable rhyme with lie lie lie) and many with considerable success. Consider Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Bill Clinton and best of allOJ Simpson all managed (to varying degrees) somehow wiggle out from under considerable evidence they had been less than honest to wrest some dignity (or freedom)- at least enough to allow them to continue to charge for speaking engagements and autograph sessions. Not only does that strike me as a sad commentary on the rest of us, it also leaves me feeling that Ben Johnson -who went from Canadian hero to immigrant bum over night- got a raw deal. No more or less a cheater than the rest, poor Ben lacked the spin doctors to rescue his image and so remains an asterisk in sporting history. By no means do I condone big Ben’s actions, but I do think it’s a shame that the one figure who eventually came clean, remains ostracized, while the others continue to protest their innocence even though we all know better. Ben may not be charging much for his autograph these days, but he enjoys the soft pillow that only a clear conscience can provide.
Thanks for reading,