Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong facing financial ruin

Written By BY RICK TELANDER rtelander@suntimes.com | @ricktelander Posted: 07/20/2014, 02:32am

There are few athletes, current or past, I dislike more than Lance Armstrong.

I’m not talking about outright bad guys, such as O.J. Simpson — whom I spoke with several times before those unfortunate murders and always found to be cordial and helpful — or clearly troubled people, such as Albert Belle or Steve Carlton.

No, I have an inner disgust for Armstrong not just because he cheated — and did it so well — but because he was so adept at playing the marketing, public-relations and vitriol game that he half-destroyed other people’s lives and nearly won it all.

Indeed, if he hadn’t been so greedy, self-centered and delusional, had stopped at, say, three Tour de France titles instead of seven and had focused on his Livestrong charity and being a nice guy, he might have made off like a bandit in the night.

But, of course, he couldn’t stop. Do bank robbers ever stop after that infamous ‘‘one last heist’’?

So as the 2014 Tour continues this week, I find it appropriate that Armstrong, who was stripped of all seven of his crowns, is fighting an up-mountain battle that might ruin him financially. He already has been ruined ethically — or, at least, a regular man would have been. Armstrong’s ego, as we have discovered, knows no bounds.

Sometime in the next year, a federal judge will decide whether the 42-year-old disgraced cyclist is on the hook for $100 million — money defrauded, plus triple damages under the False Claims Act — to the U.S. Postal Service, his former sponsor, for doping his way to success.

Plus, he might owe $12 million more for defrauding a sports insurance company.

His defense is almost brilliant, if it weren’t also insane: Everybody should have known he was shooting up with every kind of performance-enhancing drug known to man, even though he ferociously denied it and attempted to destroy anyone who claimed otherwise. In fact, his attorneys have argued the Postal Service ‘‘got exactly what it bargained for.’’

As I said, marvelous. But evil-crazy, too.

Me, I knew Armstrong was dirty from the get-go. I don’t believe any ‘‘clean’’ athlete has won the Tour in the last quarter-century or so. Books and testimony long have told us this. I never bought Armstrong’s sainthood deal, either, just because he returned from cancer. Good people die from cancer every day, and it’s not because they didn’t fight hard enough; it’s because they were unlucky.

Of course, I don’t trust the Postal Service, either. If those guys didn’t think Armstrong and other U.S. cyclists, such as Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, were taking EPO and blood doping, they were incredibly stupid or conveniently naïve.

Well, maybe those are a couple of reasons the mail service in this country is more in debt than Greece.

At any rate, I don’t want to see Armstrong destroyed. I just would like to see him give back all his unearned wealth and live a life of penance. He did enough damage that he owes us that.

◆ ABOUT THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS’ NICKNAME, I have this to say: Enough already.

It always has been an offensive term — as demeaning to Native Americans as the Cleveland Indians’ ‘‘Chief Wahoo’’ — but now it’s just a negative attention-grabber that will detract from every game the Redskins play.

How bizarre that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that TV and radio announcers who don’t want to say the name on official broadcasts don’t have to: ‘‘The nameless team goes in at halftime, leading 14-7.’’

Goodell has come out supporting moronic Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who refuses to change the name. Why would we expect a moral backbone from a commissioner who rakes in more than $40 million annually?

What’s funniest to me is that Snyder is trying to buy off native tribes by doing allegedly charitable things for them. Just the other day, he offered to build a skate park for the Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe on its reservation on the Arizona-California border, no strings attached.

Tribal member Kenrick Escalanti told USA Today, ‘‘We know bribe money when we see it.’’

Yes, it can cost money to change a logo and nickname. Think of all that stationery! But it’s done all the time. Anybody here remember the NBA’s Washington Bullets?

Just do it, Snyder, before your team becomes the de facto Clowns.

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