Probably most of us have heard what happened to cycling legend, Lance Armstrong. After winning 7 Tour de France titles, he has lost everything from his prized yellow jackets (given to the winner of the tour), to his million dollar sponsors, to his national platform for speaking out on behalf of cancer survivors. All of it has been taken away because Lance took drugs, and then lied.
And he lied, a lot.
Up until it became clear that he was going to confess, on national TV, that he had been lying about drug use, I was one of those guys who believed Lance was telling the truth when he denied his drug use previously. I have followed his career with some mild obsession and watched how many times he looked reporters, cameras, cancer patients and children, right in the eyes, and said plainly, “I have not used drugs.”
A lot of pro athletes use drugs, and when confronted you get “I’ve never tested positive” which is code for, “I’m still getting away with it.” Or they’ll say, “I’ve never used drugs” but the massive changes in their bodies betray their words. And the, “No comment” is a legally protective away of saying, “Of course I used drugs and their is no way I’m about it admit to you!”
But Lance stared us down and didn’t flinch. His story never changed. He destroyed a lot of people to keep his reputation in tact. He lost friendships. he threw a lot of people under the bus and because of his tenacity for defending himself, and the high price he was paying, I believed he was telling us the truth.
As I evaluate the situation with Lance, I realize I believed him because I so desperately want to believe that greatness doesn’t demand personal or moral compromise. I want to see a person like Lance Armstrong make it because I want to see the good guy win. I want to see the hard working, personal sacrificing athlete prove that you can be the very best, and not give up on who you really are. You can win without cheating.
Thankfully, even though Lance wasn’t one of those guys, there are still others. There are other athletes who were/are great, and didn’t cheat. People who are great in what they do, and who don’t compromise to get there. Guys like Ken Griffy Jr, Larry Bird, Cal Ripken Jr, Phil Mickelson & Bo Jackson were all top-tier athletes — heroes of their sports — and all of them did it right. They played hard, became the best, and didn’t compromise their own character or morality to get there. While I so desperately wanted Lance to be one of those guys, I’m thankful that we still have others to look to.
But even more importantly, each of us has a chance to live our lives with integrity. In fact, you can’t truly live the Overboard Life without it. I think the problem Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Roger Clements and others have faced has been simple: They chose “greatness” over character, not realizing that true greatness emerges from great character. When the day comes and we leave this earth, people will best remember who we were, not what we did. If you compromise to achieve perceived greatness, you will buried with an asterisk by your name — your “greatness” will always be devalued.
I don’t just want to “Live Strong”, I want to finish strong. Like the Apostle Paul, I hope to get to the end of my race and be able to say, “I fought the good fight, I finished the race.” And because I don’t know when my race will end, I have to live with integrity every day.
Jumping out of the comfort of the boat, and walking on the water where Jesus is, takes courage. It takes a special kind of character. A great life can be made when you follow after Christ, and that can only happen when you live with integrity. I don’t want to take any more short cuts. I don’t want to compromise any of my values. May God help us all finish strong!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is better on the water!