Explaining Cheaters Like Lance Armstrong to Your Kids

Lance Armstrong cyclingLance Armstrong was just stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. If ever there was a poster child for "Just Say No to Drugs," Armstrong is it.

Every sport has its fair share of cheaters (We are still in the Steroid Era of Baseball, aren't we?), even cycling. So how do you explain it to your kids that their heroes, the role models they've been looking up to for years are nothing but big, fat phonies?

It's human nature to be competitive. I'll give you that. But is it human nature to be so competitive that you'll resort to outright lying, cheating, and pumping up your body with zillions of chemicals so that you just can't lose?


Thankfully, my kids haven't experienced this first-hand yet. "Yet" being the operative word. I know it's just a matter of time though. If reports surface that Yankees shortshop Derek Jeter's been using performance-enhancing drugs for years, I completely give up on baseball. My kids would be crushed beyond belief.

Athletes, just like any other role model, need to think of their fan base. Yes, getting older means you're not as strong as you used to be. Not as fast. Not as agile. But a real role model perseveres. He tries even harder when he knows his body is fighting against him. That's what makes a true hero: someone who knows their limitations, and despite them, presses on.

Kids need to learn that trying your best really is all that matters. I'd much rather have them root for an athlete who never won a single championship but gave it their all, then root for someone who won seven times, only to later on admit they had a "little" bit of chemical help.

So back to the question. How do I explain all of this to my kids? How do you explain that even adults cheat? I guess it's pretty simple. I think you should just tell them the truth. Some adults just never learned the true meaning of sportsmanship. And just like kids, some adults will lie and cheat to get what they want. It's wrong, it's unfair and they usually get caught.

In fact, we can use Armstrong's case as a valuable lesson. Here's someone who won seven huge races. He raised millions of dollars for his charity to fight cancer. And now, many years later, they find out he cheated and stripped him of his titles.

You can be mad at Armstrong. Disgusted by his actions. I know I am. But it's okay to still like his charity and remember the good that he's done for the fight against cancer. It may be difficult to separate the two, but nothing in life is black and white. That's another good point to teach the kids.

The bottom line, though, is that Lance Armstrong didn't listen to his grade school teachers. Cheaters never win. And if they do, they're eventually stripped of their titles.

Have your kids been disappointed by a cheating role model?


Photo via Chuck Abbe/Flickr

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