Armstrong: ‘If I wasn’t a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough’

By Wendy Thomas Russell | October 22, 2012 | 5 comments

Now that cyclist Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, dropped by his mega-corporate sponsors, and proven to be a profoundly effective liar and cheat, it seems as good a time as any to talk about how a man’s beliefs (religious or otherwise) mean precisely nothing when contrasted against his actions. Armstrong could have grown up atheist, Muslim, Roman Catholic, or Mennonite (as one of his cheating teammates did), and those labels would have told us little of the man he’d become. Morality is linked to people’s religious beliefs in the same way it’s linked to their preferred brand of paper towels; it’s just not.

But you know me: I was curious. I had to know. So I Googled “Lance Armstrong’s religious beliefs.” What I found was a quote taken from his book, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life:

“I asked myself what I believed. I had never prayed a lot. I hoped hard, wished hard, but I didn’t pray. I had developed a certain distrust of organized religion growing up, but I felt I had the capacity to be a spiritual person, and to hold some fervent beliefs. Quite simply, I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn’t a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I’d been baptized.”

Darn. I had kind of hoped he wouldn’t land so close to me on that one. Now I feel icky.

Seriously, I can’t help but think that, for Lance Armstrong, “the end of the day” he talked about is now. “The Body” is us. And the immeasurable shame of his own making is far worse than any hell that could be conceived for him in some elusive afterlife to which, right about now, he probably feels like escaping.


  1. Jason says:

    Wait a second. When I make a decision to purchase Bounty as the quickest picker-upper of paper towels, am I not making a moral decision that I perhaps have saved some trees since I am using two the three times fewer paper towels than if I had chosen the other leading brands?

  2. john says:

    I’d bet he had himself convinced that he lived up to those words because everybody was doing it, because it was not really that bad, because he was doing it for his country, etc. I think this should be a cautionary tale for us. When we recognize that figuring out right from wrong is our personel responsibilty we also need to take responsibility for recognizing how we tend to deceive ourselves. But, the fact that our method isn’t infallible doesn’t mean it is not the right approach.

  3. Rich Wilson says:

    Tyler Hamilton mentioned Betsy Andreau’s Roman Catholicism in connection to her staunch anti-cheating stance. On the other hand, Lance’s wife Kristin is/was also a devout Roman Catholic, and was also ‘part of the program’. As Jonathan Vaughters said “Lance’s wife is rolling joints” (in reference to her wrapping pills in tinfoil).

    I do predict that Lance will find Jesus, repent, and enter a 2nd life as a successful politician.

    • Jeff Robelen says:

      > I do predict that Lance will find Jesus, repent, and enter a 2nd life as a successful politician.

      What else is left, really? He’s sunk as far as he can go.

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Due out March 31, Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious offers a well-researched look at a timely subject: secular parenting. With chapters on avoiding indoctrination, talking about death, vaccinating kids against intolerance, dealing with religious baggage, and getting along with religious relatives, the book offers a refreshingly compassionate approach to raising religiously literate, highly tolerant and critically thinking children capable of making up their own minds about what to believe. The book may be pre-ordered by visiting Brown Paper Press.

      Natural Wonderers is my new blog published by the Patheos faith network. An extension of my previous blog — Relax, It's Just God — Natural Wonderers offers stories and advice on raising curious, compassionate children in secular families.
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