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.
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
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.