I’m a little embarrassed in retrospect. The Reasoned Decision had come out about two weeks prior, and I was still aflame with (possibly contrived) moral indignation. Of course, by then I knew and had known what Lance Armstrong’s racing career was about, but seeing it all there in black and white, filling in the uglier bits of detail somehow put me in a swivet.
In moments of clarity, fleeting as they may be, I don’t buy much into moral indignation. There is an element of privilege in having the temerity to judge other people, I think. It’s not that I don’t have principles, and not that I don’t defend them in my personal life, but looking out into the larger world and thinking I have some moral superiority over other people strikes me as sort of immature.
But back then I was in a swivet, as I said, and I felt that Armstrong’s sponsors, like Nike and Oakley should drop him in a demonstration that cheaters can’t win in our sport (despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary). I wanted someone with real power to do something to salve my anger. I wrote an email to Oakley (mainly because, even then, I didn’t believe Nike had a principle you could appeal to) stating that I would not be buying their products anymore as a result of their continued support for someone who had wreaked so much havoc and damage in pro cycling.
Even typing it now feels slightly embarrassing, not because the sentiment is somehow wrong, but mainly because it was naive and maybe misguided. At the time, I didn’t own a pair of Oakley sunglasses, but I do now. So there’s something to consider.
Latently, I have realized that sports are entertainment, and in my life anyway, the leading characters may as well be fictional. It’s not that they can’t inflict real world harm, but I would argue fictional characters can do that, too. I might as well have been asking Dr Seuss to drop the Grinch (keeping it seasonal).
In the same vein, many cyclists took umbrage with Trek and other companies who had associated with Armstrong and the lesser villains of his supporting cast. The urge to support and consume products after passing them through a moral filter is strong. But does it make any sense?
As we roll into this holiday period, how do you parse things like this? How do you deal with the moral complexity of cycling? In buying products? In supporting athletes? Does this factor in at all? Or do ride amorally?