How Lance Armstrong Can Still Win the Race

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Scotty Curlee, a competitive cyclist who competed against many of Lance Armstrong’s teammates, some of whom are now under the cloud of scandal along with their fallen leader. See the end for more biographical information and for a link to Scotty’s new film.

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How Lance Armstrong Can Still Win the Race

By Scotty Curlee

Terry Armstrong was a Christian, and he came from a family who had a tendency to tell my mother how to raise me. But for all of his proselytizing, Terry had a bad temper, and he used to whip me for silly things. Kid things, like being messy…. I thought he was an angry testosterone geek, and as a result, my early impression of organized religion was that it was for hypocrites.

Lance Armstrong describing his stepfather in his book, It’s Not About the Bike

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We all know about the seven-time Tour De France winner, husband, father, son, and cancer survivor who inspired millions with Livestrong, his cancer foundation. We know too his meteoric fall from grace — and as a competitive cyclist who once aspired to the Olympics I personally felt deep and personal disappointment. At age seventeen I moved from Korea to T-town, Pennsylvania, the cycling mecca of the world, for my shot at the American dream. And at the ‘92 Olympic team cycling trials I competed against George Hincapie, later one of Armstrong’s most loyal teammates. My teammates and I finished 22nd in the 100K; Hincapie and his team came in first — shockingly fast, as if they were racing on an extra set of lungs. I recall thinking at the time, “If these guys are this fast, how much faster is Lance?” I had no doubts at the time that Lance was the bar to which every cyclist aspired; but to learn that it was all a lie cut deep.

Do I believe now that Lance can be forgiven, redeemed? Of course I do. But with a set of skills that require many new miles of honesty and humility. Judging by his recent interview with Oprah, the road to redemption, at least for a while, may be a steep uphill climb.

But here’s the thing. God is in the restoration business. It doesn’t really matter how far the subject has fallen, or how far the lost sheep has wandered. Every person has sinned, the Bible says, and falls short of God’s standard — but the Bible also tells us we are justified freely, redeemed by God’s grace available in Christ. Nothing Lance can do, anytime, anywhere, disqualifies him from God’s forgiveness, and therefore from mine. While I’m sorry that Lance perceives Christianity as a religion instead of a relationship with Christ himself — I’m also grateful. For this also is the source of my hope for him, that he will look past the hypocrisies of his father to the invitation of Christ himself.

In a generation that defines success by the wrong things, in a society that accepts evil as good, more than ever we need real heroes, role models to lead the way for the next generation. That goal, for Lance Armstrong, is still open. And it beckons. In five or ten years, I hope again to be inspired by a world-famous cyclist. Not by a super-athlete achievements but by a man’s redemption, which begins in brokenness and leads to the solid win, the rock, which is Christ.

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Scotty Curlee is an actor, director, and former competitive cyclist who aimed at the Olympics and competed against some of Lance Armstrong’s later teammates. His latest film, THE POTENTIAL INSIDE, is about a cyclist who gains a shelf of trophies but almost loses his soul.

About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering

  • BlazerJason

    Redeeming your reputation is hard for anybody let alone someone who has been admired for years. However, using religion as a shortcut to patch up your image is lazy at best, manipulative at worst. Just as the criminal who turns to Jesus after he has been caught, tried, and imprisoned prompts eye rolls and disbelieving heads shakes, so too would Armstrong’s convenient faith inspire disbelief and derision. Redemption can’t be brought about by magic, it takes hard work and time. A scoundrel who has publicly found Jesus is a still a scoundrel, just one who has found another tactic to cover his misdeeds.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I’m sure no one was suggesting that he should use religion to patch up his image. They were suggesting that a genuine and transformative encounter with Christ may be the best way for Lance to achieve true inward redemption and then blaze a trail we could admire and point our children toward. But I agree with you that public conversions for PR purposes are odious.

    • http://www.stevegoodwin.org Steve

      Criminals, quite possibly do turn to Christ for redepemtion and are genuine of it. Sometimes people have to hit rock bottom before seeing God.

      Luke 23:32-43
      32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.(A) 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father,(B) forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a](C) And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.(D)
      35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him.(E) They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”(F)
      36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him.(G) They offered him wine vinegar(H) 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews,(I) save yourself.”
      38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.(J)
      39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”(K)
      40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”(L)
      42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[b]”(M)
      43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”(N)

  • Jon

    On a personal level, I agree that redemption is possible, but I am not sure why Lance Armstrong should ever be a public figure again. After all, his entire career was built on his own deception and cheating. It’s the basis for his notoriety in the first place. By comparison, this is not like a politician who did good work but was having an affair on the side – the affair is a moral failing but it does not detract the good he did – this is like a politician who was elected through voter fraud and succeeded by cooking the books. There’s no legitimate accomplishments to warrant his fame. So while I hope for the best for Lance, I really hope never to hear about him again.