I have been very lucky as the one time I have met and talked to one of my sporting heroes I found a charming modest man; Gareth Edwards. The Welsh and British Lions scrum-half was probably the greatest rugby player of all time but he told me he was lucky to get in the Welsh team as he was only called up for Wales when his predecessor was injured.
Today some fairly damming evidence has been made public that Lance Armstrong, the 7 times Tour de France winner, was using illegal drugs to enhance not only his performance but also that of his team mates. He is likely to be stripped of his titles and the inspiring story of the man who came back from cancer to be the greatest ever Tour de France cyclist becomes one of a common cheat. However life isn’t that simple because this is the same Lance Armstrong who founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation which has raised more than $470 million to support, inspire and empower people affected by cancer. On the one hand he is a man so driven to win that he will risk his and others’ health to achieve his goals and on the other we have a man who is responsible for raising hundreds of millions of dollars to help other cancer suffers.
As I write this the story all over the media here in the UK is about the late Sir Jimmy Savile being a serial sex predator; an article on the BBC News site ends: “It said the alleged victims were mainly girls who were aged between 13 and 16 at the time, and the allegations spanned four decades.” What the truth of this may never fully be known as he isn’t alive to defend himself (unlike Lance Armstrong who has decided to not defend himself) and so only one side of the story is being told. However, this is the same Jimmy Savile who was knighted "for charitable services" – the small matter of raising some £40 million for charity and giving his time to work as a volunteer hospital porter.
Should this surprise us that men and women who are capable of so much good are also capable of falling for temptation in such a big way? It doesn’t surprise me because, as a Christian, I believe we are all this jumble of good and bad. On the one hand we are made in the image of God and capable of much good but on the other we are fallen people living in a fallen world who can easily fall into temptation. It is said the higher you climb, the harder you fall so perhaps those who push themselves to the top face greater temptation than those of us who don’t.
For me the Christian response is to say “there but for the grace of God go I” and to not join in the public demonisation of those who don’t live up to our expectations. That in no way means I am condoning the alleged actions of Lance Armstrong and Jimmy Savile but I would like to balance that with the great works which they have done.