No one likes snitches. Not even snitches like snitches. In a corrupt society or institution, authorities use snitches to break down barriers of trust within rival organizations (like mafioso families or gangs), which creates paralyzing mistrust and suspicion between people and makes common action impossible. No matter how high and mighty someone thinks themselves within a corrupt world, they can always be brought down by their snitches, and governments and governing bodies are experts at using the testimony of snitches (along with generously provided immunity) to seek to bring down those who are bigger targets. Those felled by snitches often end up in disgrace or in jail seeking forgiveness by the people they fooled and seeking a second chance to redeem themselves after they have been humbled. Sadly, many of the sports heroes of our time, especially in sports like baseball, have been tarnished through snitches to such an extent that no one was voted in the Baseball Hall of Fame this past year because no one could get enough support, despite the presence of some of the greatest players of all time (many of whom carried specific steroid baggage and others were simply tarnished by association).
Few sports have been as decimated by snitches and corruption (and the two tend to go together) as cycling. Despite the fact that I am not a very good cyclist myself, though I did fancy myself a good one when I was a child growing up in the flat and swampy terrain of rural West Central Florida biking around with my neighbors in the backwoods, I am a fan of the sport and I am fascinated by the different specialties within cycling as well as the way in which teams are designed to help provide the best chance for their leaders to win through the presence of many riders who have no chance of winning themselves but whose support of the team leader is vital for overall success . Ironically, the vital importance of the team to the success of a cyclist, combined with the deep corruption within cycling culture concerning doping (steroids, human growth hormone, and even blood transfusions), has led to the lamentable and predictable rise of snitches within cycling culture to the level where no one is immune to their effect.
This includes Lance Armstrong. For many years, despite his unethical conduct, Lance Armstrong was a high-flyer in cycling. He survived testicular cancer and managed to win 7 straight Tour de France titles while drivers left and right were being exposed and thrown out of the sport for doping. He claimed to be clean and above the corruption even as he became the face of a sport that was known as immensely corrupt to the core, parlaying that good will into support for his charity LiveStrong, supporting the defeat of cancer. He broke up his marriage to date Sheryl Crow, and life in the high life was good for a while. However, Lance Armstrong’s clean reputation, build as it was on lying and deception and corruption, could not endure. So Lance Armstrong, like so many others, was brought down by snitches. Some of them were jealous competitors and former teammates, like Tyler Hamilton, who had been busted themselves. Other snitches included his most-trusted sidekick and (so far as we know) a clean racer in George Hincapie, known for his nonpareil skills in herding a team leader to victory in the Tour de France. As a result, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his titles and had to resign from his not-for-profit in disgrace, even being forced to go through the indignity of confessing some of his sins on Oprah .
So, how does Lance Armstrong to about seeking to repair his reputation and preserve himself some space for athletic endeavor in a world that has shunned him like a leper? He is now seeking to become a snitch to bring down still bigger figures within the cycling world, to show how cycling corruption came from the top down and was not limited merely to riders but included the highest figures in the governing bodies of the sport, who turned a blind eye to corruption (rather like baseball) until the problem became a public relations scandal and had to be dealt with hypocritically and harshly. Will Lance Armstrong be successful in his efforts to show how cycling was even more corrupt than is now believed and understood? Are his accusations merely sour grapes or are they based (as those accusations that brought him down) on truth and large amounts of verifiable evidence? Time will tell. Will Lance’s belated peccavi and confessio restore him some of his honor and reputation in the eyes of others? If he is honest and sincere, most of us (myself included) are generally willing to forgive. We know the world is corrupt, we just want others to admit their share of the problem so that we can get to the messy and dirty work of making the world and at least some parts of it just and honorable. Sincerity and contrition go a long way to rebuilding good will. But even though we might be willing to forgive Lance Armstrong for his sins, which are many, that still doesn’t mean we will like him as a snitch.