CNN asked for views on whether disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong deserves another chance in light of his apologies to his charity, Livestrong, and his soon-to-be-aired interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which it's widely reported he admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong is banned from professional cycling for life and was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.
Mike Downey: No sympathy for the dope "pedaler"
I was at the Champs-Elysees finish line on July 27, 1986, when the bike of Greg LeMond whizzed by, making him the first American to win the Tour de France. It was a monumental achievement: 210 cyclists, 23 grueling days, long and winding roads, treacherously steep hills.
Equally hard had to be the abuse LeMond endured in retirement after publicly decrying the sport's hypocrisies and daring to suggest that seven-time winner Lance Armstrong, the All-American boy himself, had not been on the up-and-up. Vilified and disdained, LeMond was treated like a tobacco company's insider who blew the whistle on the industry's methods or like Carl Lewis speculating that his rival Ben Johnson had not won foot races fairly and squarely. As if he had an ax to grind.
I haven't a smidgen of sympathy for Armstrong now that he is exposed for the dope-pedaler -- that's pedal, not peddle -- he truly was. He played the Jean Valjean part of the persecuted man for every franc that it was worth. Let us resist the magnanimous gesture to forgive, forget and give Lance a second (eighth?) chance. He was caught, unlike certain baseball players who have been merely suspected or accused, and has, evidently, confessed. Seven strikes and you're out.
Professional athletes do exist who 'fess up, serve a suspension, then are welcomed back. They, as with the ballplayers, did disgrace their life's work, yet none single-handedly won their sport's championship with their chicanery. None stood apart as Armstrong did and hogged credit for being a champion, a hero. None won a championship by compelling teammates to also cheat, at risk of being shunned, smeared or dropped from the team.
I say we say goodbye for good to Monsieur Armstrong, farewell, adieu. Off to Elba and exile with you, you rogue. Vive LeMond.
Mike Downey is a former columnist for The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.
Randy Cohen: All big-time cyclists who doped should confess
The important ethical question isn't whether Lance deserves a second chance. Chance to do what? Cheat in seven more Tours? Lie about it seven more times? Bully seven more teammates into doping? He behaved badly and is rightly censured.
But that should be the beginning, not the end, of this disheartening story. There's a lot more blame to go around. Cycling's governing bodies also have an ethical duty, and that's to provide a setting in which honest athletes can participate.
If many cycling fans are right, most of the top riders engaged in doping. You simply can't compete against them without doing the same. What was Lance to do? Quit the sport? And who inherits his Tour titles? Some other cheat?
It would be thrilling if one by one, they declined in a Spartacus moment -- an honest, I-am-drugged-Spartacus moment. This is a community problem; it demands community solutions. Unless those who run big-time cycling institute real reforms, Lance's fall will be merely a celebrity scandal, and there's little good in that.
Randy Cohen wrote The Ethicist column in The New York Times Magazine till 2011, and he is a former writer for "Late Night With David Letterman." His latest book is "Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything."
Jeff Pearlman: He's almost 42, forget about it
Back when I was 8 or 9, my parents took me to my first trip to Disney World. I remember Space Mountain, and I remember Mickey Mouse's enormous head. For some reason, though, what I remember most is a sign posted within the borders of Epcot. It read: If you can dream it, you can do it.
"Dad," I said, "I dream of being 8-feet tall. But that'll never happen ..."
"Well, son ..."
"And, Dad, I dream of being able to fly just like Superman. But that'll never happen ..."
"Son, the thing is ..."
"And Dad, I'd really like to win an Olympic gold medal for my Joanie Cunningham impersonation, but ..."
"Son," my father said, "It's a sign. It's just a damn sign."
Throughout Lance Armstrong's recent fight to prove he hadn't cheated, and throughout the plights of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire and the alleged PED abuses of dozens upon dozens of others, I've often thought about that day at Disney and, specifically, of that sign.
As a boy, it spoke to me as a kid longing for greatness. Maybe, just maybe, I can accomplish anything. Maybe ...