Back when Lance Armstrong was riding away from the other doping cyclists, rumors and conspiracies about doping were rampant. Fans wanted to believe the sport was clean. People wanted the Legend of Lance to be true. Cancer victim comes back to win Tour de France seven times! It doesn’t get any better than that.
Well, the conspiracies all turned out to be true. The lies ran all the way up to the top of the sport.
But it was a house of cards. For years Lance was the Rainmaker for the entire sport of cycling. His personal brand brought millions of sponsorship dollars into cycling and everyone benefited. But it was all very much like war profiteering. The ends justified the means. And that meant everyone doped because if you couldn’t keep up, you could not get your piece of the Lance Armstrong pie.
It’s often said that sports is a paradigm for the rest of humanity. The triumphs and failures are a form of art imitating life. We love it when our heroes succeed. We suffer when they fail. The vicarious nature of human beings wants to know that acting like a hero begets some sort of good in this world.
As the years roll by people are coming to appreciate that the great conspiracy of Lance Armstrong was a plot even stranger than fiction. By the time he finally came clean (pun intended) it was not exactly shocking. The truth was staring most of us in the face all along. A ton of other cyclists from Lance Armstrong’s era had already been caught or confessed. A map of the podium finishers in front and immediately behind Lance was like a rogue’s gallery of cycling busts. So the conspiracy, as it were, was no longer secret. Everyone was doping because everyone had to dope just to participate in the sport.
A world of dopers and dopes
So much of the world also works that way. People go along to get along with the powers that be. They’re paid (sometimes quite well) to keep their mouths shut. And if the conspiracy is important enough, people lose their lives when they threaten to expose the truth.
Of course some people lose their lives as the result of conspiracies in the first place. One of the greatest conspiracies in American history is the killing of John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert. No one with a brain in their head believes any longer that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone shooter. Decades of research by investigators of all political stripes have also exposed the sham that was the Warren Commission. It’s quite obvious now that people within our own government, in collaboration with mafia and possibly CIA help pulled off a grand execution and then covered it up. LBJ was likely in on it to some degree, but so perhaps was George Herbert Walker Bush, then of the CIA.
Conspiracies about Kennedy’s death long felt like false claims that anyone other than Oswald was responsible for the killing that day in Dallas. America could not deal with the idea that people could be so evil as to assassinate a popular president. But it happened. And stuff like that continues to happen every day.
The root of all evil
Some people see links between that brand of conspiracy and what transpired on the infamous day of 9/11. It’s difficult to comprehend the possibility of that level of conspiratorial action, but it’s obviously not the first time in history men of power have conspired to act out of fury and madness for their own agenda. The mixed up world of war profiteering in World War II included men like Prescott Bush, Joe Kennedy and even Henry Ford selling weapons to the Nazis. Men of power have always conspired to use tragedy for their own profit.
It’s always about the money. That’s what drove Lance Armstrong and so many other cyclists to cheat and defame the sport that fed their pockets and their egos. As it turned out, the Lance Legend, while still impressive for its level of accomplishment, was a conspiracy come true. It has convinced me there is almost always a difficult truth behind the lies we’re fed about events ranging from the Kennedy assassination to 9/11.
When faced with a conspiracy, one of the first questions we all need to ask is; Who is the benefactor? There’s always a reason behind why people do things. Sometimes it’s power. Sometimes it’s money. Sometimes it’s sheer madness. But there’s always a motivation. Sometimes it’s just to gain attention. More often it’s to gain power, prestige or money.
Crazy conspiracies or not?
There are conspiracies that are just plain crazy on the surface. Some people refuse to believe we ever put a man on the moon. Others insist that Paul McCartney was killed in a car accident and was replaced by a talented CIA plant named Faul McCartney.
Many people continue the search for Sasquatch or Bigfoot. There is absolutely no material evidence that such a creature exists. No credible remains have ever been documented. Yet there is a website dedicated to “educating” people about the existence of Bigfoot. Perhaps the idea of a man-beast that is part ape and part human seems to hold appeal for a segment of the populace. Perhaps it’s the hope that the human race has not completely conquered nature after all.
Conspiracies tend to focus on that sort of narrative. There’s a hubris afoot in some way, and people want to peel back the arrogant lies and reveal the truth. No one likes to be tricked, and conspiracy theorists hold back no resources when trying to figure out what really happened in this world.
There’s just one problem with conspiracy theory as a world view. It can easily be misdirected, misguided and misanthropic.
For example, there’s an apparently large segment of the American populace that views science as some sort of conspiracy against truth. They regard with suspicion any fact or theory that does not align with the tenets of their own worldview.
Hence we find creationists building a museum in Kentucky whose main mission (funded by millions) is to expose the supposedly false contentions of science and evolution. Their main point is that these secular knowledge tools are designed specifically to counteract the word of God. So these believers do just about anything to counteract the so-called conspiracy that human beings evolved from other life forms over millennia.
In fact the real conspiracy is that people who take the bible literally are simply selective in what they choose to believe and not believe. They also ignore the fact that Jesus Christ himself used much organic symbolism in his teaching, which was dependent on using examples from nature to convey spiritual principles. So creationists technically are conspiring to obscure the actual teaching methods of Jesus and the true foundation of the bible, which is spiritual metaphor.
It’s inconceivable to creationists that evolution is anything other than a conspiracy to defeat faith in a literal bible. Actually what really galls them, and heightens the notion of conspiracy, is that many real scientists care not a lick what people choose to believe about God or spirituality. Those notions have nothing to do with material science. If it can’t be tested and reproduced in practice, then it is not science. And it likely does not exist.
That’s the irony in all this. Science is the ultimate debunker of conspiracy theories. Hence the popularity of the cable show Mythbusters. Myths and conspiracy theories have a tangential relationship, you see. People create myths around their most closely held beliefs.
But people also create myths to fool others. That’s what happened with Lance Armstrong. His myth held out for quite a long time before the conspiracy of his doping was exposed, and confessed. In his case it was the corroborative evidence of other witnesses that doomed his mythlike stature. His former teammates blew the conspiracy wide open.
The question we all face when dealing with conspiracies, exposed and otherwise, is how much accountability there should be when it comes to secrets and lies. If a conspiracy is constructed to ostensibly protect a nation’s interests, is it better for the public to ultimately know? And, if a conspiracy is exposed and it is determined that the nation’s best interests were compromised or put at risk, what should the punishment be? Do we simply let conspiracies such as the Reagan-era Iran-Contra affair lay there in history? Or do we call those who perpetrated the actions to account? Usually its a mix of responses. And usually there it is a fall guy, not the top people in power that pay the price.
That’s what makes the Lance Armstrong case rather rare. But even Lance seems to want to tell us he’s not the ultimate kingpin. Someday the true nature of the full cycling conspiracy will come out. Like the Kennedy assassination investigation, it just takes time.
Secrets and operatives
Surely we’ve learned that our own CIA in America does all sorts of things it does not want the public to know. Yet once the conspiracy of our military’s torture of Iraqis was exposed, that led to greater hate of our nation by terrorists. Some claim we should never have released those photos. They were the province of war and special intelligence.
But if we truly care about the character of our nation and its representatives, then all of us should take conspiracy seriously. Surely some conspiracies are shallow, vain attempts at gaining attention. But others are massively significant, such as the case with Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information from the NSA. Some say he did it out of good conscience and is a hero. Others consider him a traitor.
One thing we know for sure. There is always something afoot that runs deeper than our surface knowledge. It pays to ask questions and seek the truth, even if it means exposing some of our heroes and leaders as frauds. There’s always a risk in that. Sometimes we find out things we really did not want to know.
We’re coming up to Easter, the season when Christians celebrate the Resurrection, which is either the biggest even known in history or the biggest conspiracy ever perpetrated on the face of the earth.
Conspiring minds want to know.