It's been a year and a half since Lance Armstrong's world collapsed around him, brought down by his own hubris and deception. What's his life like? How is he handling his self-inflicted exile? In "Lance In Purgatory," a remarkable extended profile, Esquire writer John Richardson spent time with Armstrong and learned how Armstrong is handling life after the fall ... and how many people are ready and willing to forgive him.
"Depression? Self-loathing? Emotional paralysis? Lance Armstrong will not indulge, thank you," Richardson writes. "A year and a half after the scandal that ended his career, after being stripped of all his trophies and confessing the ugly truth to his children and losing in a single day an estimated $150 million, these are the circumstances to which he has been reduced."
Said "circumstances" include his artwork, his mixed drinks ("Lanceritas" are a specialty), and his children, all around him, all at once. But he can't compete in any kind of sport — he got kicked out of a local swim meet because someone protested his presence — and the strain of that loss is visible. Also visible: the reactions of fellow sufferers when in his presence.
"[T]rail him for a few days and watch how giddy and hopeful the sick and the dying become in his presence, forgetting for a moment their nausea and pain and mortal fears. Amid all the controversy and disgrace, you admit, you forgot just how important Lance Armstrong was and still is to cancer patients everywhere."
For that reason, and for many others, there may just be a path to redemption ahead for Armstrong. The Livestrong Foundation, which he began and which had to distance itself from Armstrong in the wake of the unfolding scandals, could be that path. With the passage of time comes not just forgiveness, but maybe even a second chance.
"If he gets up in the morning and decides that being a leader in the cancer community is what he wants to spend his life doing," says Doug Uhlman, president of Livestrong, "then the cancer community and the Livestrong Foundation would welcome him back."
Midway through the article, Richardson sums up Armstrong perfectly: "Lance Armstrong cheated death, and then he kept on cheating," he writes. "And he was no run-of-the-mill cheat. Sublimely American in his ambition, he became the best cheater, greatest cheater of all time, turning a European bicycle race into a gaudy, ruthless, and unprecedented demonstration of American corporate prowess and athletic hegemony. He doped and bullied other bikers to dope and sued or harassed people for telling the truth about him, which is hard to forgive. But he wasn't the evil genius who invented evil."
Will the public forgive Armstrong? Is redemption ahead? Perhaps. But the first move, and probably several after that, will have to be Armstrong's.