No surprises with Armstrong’s words

Forgive us, if you will, if we feel a little bit like Capt. Louis Renault, a character from the film “Casablanca” who was played so very well by Claude Rains.

Renault was in the process of closing down Rick’s Cafe Americain, a nightclub and gambling parlor in the 1942 film, when owner Rick Blaine, memorably portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, asks the Vichy officer what grounds he has to close the bar. Renault’s answer: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.” He then thanks the croupier, who has handed him his winnings.

The mock surprise displayed by Renault is similar to our reaction to news that Lance Armstrong, the world’s most famous bicylist, had finally confessed that the long-standing rumors he had used performance enhancers were true.

Allegations of doping had followed Armstrong for much of a bicycling career that included seven victories in the Tour de France, the most elite titles obtainable in his sport.

His confession was made to personality Oprah Winfrey during the taping of an interview aired Thursday and Friday over OWN cable television network.

Armstrong’s story was at one time one of inspiration, of his continued success at his sport’s highest levels while surviving testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. His charity, Livestrong, offered help to those who suffered from cancer and their families. He was forced from the charity, lost his tour titles and many product endorsements last year after a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report accused him of masterminding a long-running doping scheme.

As quickly as he has fallen, Armstrong has not yet bottomed out – he now faces the prospect of possibly having to repay millions of dollars collected from lawsuits won against critics who had dared to question his dope-free image – which he has adamantly defended time and again – appearance fees and a suit alleging he defrauded the U.S. Postal Service, which at one time sponsored his race team.

It is somewhat fitting that Armstrong’s revelations come shortly after the Baseball Hall of Fame failed to elect a single member to its Class of 2013. Included among this year’s nominees were Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens, players whose monster accomplishments will forever be clouded by allegations they were linked to performance enhancers.

Their stories all point to the dangers of a win-at-all-costs culture and the steep price that must be paid by those who succumb to it. If Armstrong wants to truly make good on repentance, here’s a suggestion for a grand start: give that $100 million net worth obtained through fraud to a charity. We’re sure he could name a deserving one.