At least Lance Armstrong has his health. He kicked cancer’s ass, but there otherwise isn’t much silver in the lining through which so many others are being sucked. As Armstrong is stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after losing lucrative sponsorships and even his perch atop LIVESTRONG, I wonder what you tell the kids who defied the Charles Barkley maxim (“I’m not a role model”) and adopted an utterly human, and therefore unfailingly imperfect, sports figure as a hero. Because I’m a sportswriter, I’m mainly pondering one of the best of us, Sally Jenkins, whose role in diversifying one of the last of the holy male sanctums – the locker room – qualifies her for pioneer status.
Jenkins is a sports columnist for the Washington Post who has written for Sports Illustrated, been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and occupied the No. 1 spot on the New York Times best seller list. She also closely hitched her star to Armstrong’s by penning with him two books, “Every Second Counts” and “Not About the Bike.” I wonder if she consequently will—and should—be sucked into the draft of Armstrong’s nosedive. Because of Jenkins, we knew more about Armstrong than most athletes of his stature. Readers gained this perspective because Jenkins made a deal as old as her craft: access in exchange for a blind eye, either permanent or occasional.
This isn’t to claim that Jenkins knew the truth about Armstrong’s alleged doping activities. But, at the very least, she was in a position to view flags which were red as the blood Armstrong was supposed to be altering. Was Jenkins therefore obligated to employ more skepticism while sketching such overwhelmingly flattering pictures of Armstrong?