Dear or Despicable: Attitudinal shifts in fame

Fame is a bee. Fame is a fickle friend. Fifteen minutes of fame.

The irksome truth of such rhetoric platitudes is that fame is short-lived. Barring a few exceptions, whether it’s bollywood hotties, sylphlike supermodels, sports stars, business personages, scandalous politicians, mob hungry activists or a village child who fell into some damned bore well….the time validity of fame’s coverage is never prolonged. Those who try to protract their share of fame get loathing; plain and simple.

In this fame-thirsty world, we witness fancy and groovy titles lavished upon the famous.

Hall of Fame, Forbes 100 Most Powerful Celebrities, or ATP World Tour Rankings and someone on the cover page of Time magazine is sure as hell renowned. But fame dissolves in a jiffy. With each new magazine edition, each new list of world rankings, the once-upon-a-legend-tag just vanishes away into the 7 billion populations that inhabit the earth.

But drastic and sudden attitudinal shift towards a celebrity is rather uncommon and peculiar.

Lance Armstrong, a world class athlete, who recovered from cancer and went on to clinch 7 Tour de France titles, is the latest example.

The scandal which surfaced just few days ago has sunk his popularity to Michael Bolton levels.

On June 29, 2012 the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officially charged Armstrong with doping and trafficking of drugs, and suspended him from competing. He filed a lawsuit twice in July, but it was dismissed each time. And finally on August 24, USADA announced that Lance Armstrong had chosen not to move forward with the independent arbitration process, and as a result has received a lifetime period of ineligibility and disqualification of all competitive results from August 1, 1998 through the present, as the result of his anti-doping rule violations stemming from his involvement in the United States Postal Service (USPS) Cycling Team Doping Conspiracy (USPS Conspiracy).

In the letter, which was published in the Washington Post, the agency said it also has at least 10 former teammates and colleagues of Armstrong who will testify that he used drugs during his races from the years 1999 to 2005.

Travis Tygart, USADA’S chief executive officer cleared, “As every athlete’s right, if Mr. Armstrong would have contested the USADA charges, all of the evidence would have been presented in an open legal proceeding.”

Armstrong defends himself, “The idea that athletes can be convicted today without positive A and B samples, under the same rules and procedures that apply to athletes with positive tests, perverts the system and creates a process where any begrudged ex-teammate can open a USADA case out of spite or for personal gain, or a cheating cyclist can cut a sweetheart deal for themselves.”

Armstrong’s attorneys have pointed out that he has “passed every drug test ever administered to him in his career – a total of 500 to 600 tests… more drug tests than any athlete in history.”

Does his decision to wimp out of challenging the decision insinuates his guilt or is he just too fed up of fighting and proving his innocence?

He claims that “from the beginning, this investigation has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling but about punishing me at all costs” and therefore challenging the decision would be pointless if the judgment is purportedly pre-decided.

We can’t reduce him to a cheat. But whatever it is, his giving up stands against the spirit of the great player and the great sport that cycling is.

At the same time, as of now, there are no solid reasons to accuse him with such confidence. Now no one knows the culpability, whose and to what degree. It is hidden and remains enigmatic to the world, but there is enough evidence to indicate that there is something fishy and worth talking about.

Regardless of how controversial the story was, Armstrong, at 41, after having already retired for an year, served himself the last piece of pie with his outrageous story  that was covered by media all over the world.

In Lance Armstrong’s first public Appearance since the anti-doping sanctions, he was all smiles.

Sounding sanguine, he said “There are a lot of good young guys. Cycling is going to be fine.”

His statement carried an aura of optimism “I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities.”

He has been left with stronger admiration, known to even non-cycling fans and a lot of critics (which every famous person mandatorily has).

ESPN quoted Doug Ulman, Livestrong foundation,CEO as saying that unsolicited donations increased 25 times following the controversy. Armstrong’s sponsors, which have paid a total of about $10m a year, will be embarrassed and some are likely to drop him although his principal backer, Nike, said it would stand by the shamed athlete.

“Lance has stated his innocence and has been unwavering on this position. Nike plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors,” it said.

So he grabbed the last piece of fame with this controversy, he is partially blemished (remember, Armstrong never tested positive for performance-enhancing drug use during his races, USADA has only evidence of it and some testimonies) but completely unhurt. Splendid! He didn’t even feel like moving case against the allegations anymore. Like he said “enough is enough”.

Lance Armstrong is left with great kids, family, opulence, and got chance(s) to be popular, positively for some and negatively for others. He will still be remembered for the races he won, the support he gave to cancer patients and the news of the charges against him. There is no use crying over spilled milk. Ends justify the means. Sounds very Machiavellian, but it is empirical and applicable.

Therefore, the fame and attention extracted out of the whole scandalous and perplexing episode, which though, has eventually started to disappear as the situation is simmering down, belonged to Mr.Armstrong- ‘Controversially Yours’. Kudos!

Sakshi Tirthani

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