The Tooth Fairy exists.
My 9-year-old daughter is convinced of this. Her friends tell her it’s not true, but she refuses to waver. “Prove it,” she says.
“Well, to start with, people don’t fly,” they say.
“The tooth fairy isn’t a person,” my daughter replies. “She’s a fairy. Fairies fly.”
“But fairies don’t even exist.”
“How do you know?”
My daughter is right. There is no proof the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist. None. Even when she finds out her parents are the ones putting $1 bills beneath her pillow, she can argue, “Well, if you didn’t do it, she would.” Even when she comes to find fairies don’t actually exist, she can decide the tooth fairy uses laughing gas and smoke bombs to sneak in and out. There’s always a way to believe. Always, always, always, always. The invalidity of the Tooth Fairy is factual, but not provable.
Hence, the Tooth Fairy exists.
Lance Armstrong didn’t cheat.
Thousands upon thousands of people are convinced of this. Naysayers say it’s not true, but they refuse to waver. “Prove it,” they say.
“Well, to start with, the Tour de France is—undeniably—filled with cyclists who are hopped up on performance-enhancing drugs,” the naysayers say.
“That doesn’t mean Lance also used,” supporters say.
“Right,” say the naysayers. “But you’re telling us Lance Armstrong is so much better than EVERY … OTHER … RIDER … IN … THE … WORLD that even if they’re using, and he’s not, he can still beat them—seven times!”
“Anything is possible,” the supporters counter. “Lance has a big heart.”
“But seven times. S-E-V-E-N. After nearly dying of cancer. You’re saying, naturally, he can consistently beat the world’s greatest riders—even those who are loaded on PEDs—on skill and desire. Repeatedly.”
See, this is what gets me. I hear all the Lance Armstrong defenders crying there’s no real proof, and while I don’t quite agree with this take (To quote William Fotheringham of the London Guardian: “For the last eight years the weight of evidence against Armstrong has built inexorably: the two-year investigation by Walsh and Ballester that produced a book full of circumstantial evidence but no smoking gun; the positive tests for EPO uncovered in 2005 during research on samples from the 1999 Tour; most recently, the detailed account from his former team-mates, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, about doping practices at the Texan’s US Postal Service. The Usada released a statement on Friday evening outlining the anti-doping rules that Armstrong had violated since 1998 as they justified the ban and removal of his titles.”), I suppose I can understand it. Factually, Lance Armstrong has never out-and-out failed a drug test.
The problem, though, is reality vs. fantasy. I love the ideas of dreaming big and fighting the odds and challenging the status quo. I’ve long been a fan of underdogs—Villanova over Georgetown, Ray Leonard over Marvin Hagler, Giants over Patriots.
But this isn’t merely an underdog story—it’s a fantasy story. Barry Bonds could not have hit 73 home runs in his late 30s without PEDs. Tony Mandarich couldn’t have bench pressed 545 pounds without PED. And a man—even a superstar athlete, a la Armstrong—cannot beat other similar superstar athletes (who use PED) consistently and repeatedly without using himself. It is, simply put, impossible.
It sucks, and it’s disappointing.
But it’s true.