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Lance Armstrong, Roger Clemens: Men in the same line of smirk

Lance Armstrong speaks during an interview AustTexas Tuesday Feb. 15 2011. (AP Photo/Thao Nguyen)

Lance Armstrong speaks during an interview in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Thao Nguyen)

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Updated: July 18, 2012 6:39AM



Lance Armstrong and Roger Clemens are the same guy.

Oh, they look different, lead different lives and dominated different sports. But they share the same deadly strain of arrogance that allows a person to believe he can fool an entire planet.

Last week, we found ourselves at the intersection of Clemens’ perjury trial and more doping allegations against Armstrong. You couldn’t have MapQuested it any better. The two men belong together. So do toilets and behinds.

They are entrenched in battles that have taken over their lives — lives in which everything they do or have done is inextricably tied to drug cheating. The hubris it takes to carry on the fight is massive. The energy expended would light a small city.

What a miserable life it must be.

The evidence against Armstrong is especially strong, and there’s so much of it that a Sunday sports section couldn’t contain it. But that never has given him pause, in the same way evidence never has given pause to Clemens or Barry Bonds.

When you’re used to winning races (Armstrong) or games (Clemens), you don’t cave in easily. When you’re sure you can beat the system because you’ve beaten everything else, including cancer (Armstrong), maybe you don’t cave in at all.

It explains why Armstrong announced last week that he would fight the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s recent allegations. The agency has 10 witnesses who say they saw Armstrong use or traffic in performance-enhancing drugs during a 14-year period in which he won seven Tours de France.

And it explains how Clemens finds himself at the mercy of a jury after being accused of lying to Congress about his use of drugs during a career in which he won seven Cy Young Awards.

What separates them from most human beings is that they seem to believe what they’re saying. Is there anyone left on earth who believes them in return? And if so, why? Maybe for the same reason some people believe O.J. Simpson was innocent: They don’t want to believe the truth.

I suppose both men could be playing the role Harrison Ford did in ‘‘The Fugitive’’ — that of an unjustly accused man trying to clear his name. But if you believe this, then you have to believe that sinister forces are out to get them.

It plays right into the never-out-of-fashion paranoid thinking that the government is itching to prosecute any of us on trumped-up charges because . . . because . . . well, that’s the problem with the thinking. There is no ‘‘because’’ outside of the logical one involving guilt.

Because the federal government has decided it doesn’t like Roger Clemens?

Because the world is out to get Lance Armstrong?

Because of jealousy over their accomplishments?

None of it works logically.

Contrary to what their defenders want you to believe, neither man has been the subject of a witch hunt, unless you consider Armstrong and Clemens witches. What we have seen, though, is enough smoke to make multiple voices yell, ‘‘Fire!’’

Armstrong is the founder of Livestrong, which seeks to educate people about cancer. The foundation does a lot of good work, but it conveniently can be used as a shield: How dare anybody criticize a man who has worked so hard in the fight against cancer? You can see why people shrink when Armstrong’s shadow lands on them. Who wants to be accused of being for cancer?

But that’s not reason enough to back down.

To the people who whine that the Clemens trial is a waste of federal resources that should be used on more pressing criminal and civil matters: You’re so right. We shouldn’t prosecute any cases involving battery, theft, forgery or illegal firearms until, say, the banking system is cleaned up. Or, to take it to its logical conclusion, until we get to the bottom of what killed off the dinosaurs, all other prosecutions will be put on hold.

Or there’s this: We can be on the side of right when given a choice.

We Americans can live with a little cheating, but it drives us crazy when it’s flaunted. We don’t like being smirked at as if we’re rubes. That’s what Armstrong and Clemens are doing, again and again, in the face of allegation after allegation. They’re smirking.

Where does either go from here? They’re not in Dennis Rodman or Jose Canseco territory yet, but they’re inching in that direction. They’re national punch lines headed toward their own reality shows. Maybe that’s their real sentence.

And our ultimate revenge.



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