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Goon: After Lance Armstrong, skepticism in sports grows
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

We love the idea that someone can be more than a man. That those with special abilities — superhuman abilities, even — and a tireless work ethic can surpass limits many of us have never dreamed of.

For me, that's what made Lance Armstrong so intoxicating.

He was more than a man — he was a brand. He made cycling worth watching in the United States. For a time, Livestrong bracelets were more a part of America's skin than a fashion accessory.

We wanted to believe. That's why we watch sports.

It was convincing for a while. I'll admit to believing Lance's claims that he was the subject of a witch hunt. That's how powerful faith is.

In the wake of the final stripping away of the mythology of Lance Armstrong, many people are left wondering what can be made not only of his athletic achievements, but also his goodwill and humanitarian causes.

I would hope that folks would continue to support organizations that try to help other human beings, which are trying to erase crippling illness and suffering. I don't think it's possible to fully condemn someone for doing what they can in the interests of life.

For me, the darker part of Lance's legacy will be this: whispers, rumors and doubt.

The latest report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has torn many things apart, not the least of which is the public's faith in a person many considered to be the most inspiring athlete of all time.

But the report has also helped build something: a wall of cynicism for sports fans. A barrier that will always make it harder to believe in the wholesome stories of our athletes and idols.

Can we really look with the same bright eyes on any achievement in sport? It's not a wall that Lance Armstrong built himself, but one that gets a brick every time someone admits that they didn't do something great the old-fashioned way.

Mark McGwire. Barry Bonds. Ben Johnson. Marion Jones.

Bricks in the wall.

It's true that to some degree, cheating is a part of our sports culture. Spitballs and flopping are familiar to us. We accept that they exist.

But there has been a lost innocence here, an understanding that the feats we see have to be treated with skepticism.

Whenever there's home runs being smashed left and right, or world records falling like leaves, it won't leave us quite as impressed. We won't be overwhelmed by the triumph of human spirit and physical achievement quite as easily.

The questions will come: Is it steroids? Is it doping? Can we trust it?

In the world of sport we've inherited, it's hard to believe your eyes anymore. It's a corruption of the game, something that makes athletics just a little less inspiring.

Lance Armstrong is the latest reinforcement of that rising wall of cynicism. Unfortunately, he won't be the final addition.

kgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon

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