No Honor Left
by Daniel Luzer
Tufts University has decided to take away Lance Armstrong’s honorary degree, which it awarded the triathlete and seven-time winner of the Tour De France in 2006. According to a statement by the school.
The Board of Trustees unanimously voted to rescind the honorary degree awarded to Lance Armstrong at Commencement in 2006. While continuing to respect the significant work of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the board concluded that, in the wake of the recent report of the United States Anti-Doping Agency and its acceptance by the International Cycling Union, Mr. Armstrong’s actions as an athlete are inconsistent with the values of Tufts University.
Earlier this year the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) charged the cyclist with using prohibited performance-enhancing drugs, stripped him of all titles earned since 1998, and banned him from further completion. USADA characterized Armstrong as a “serial cheat who led the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
At the 2006 commencement exercises Tufts explained its reasons for granting the honorary doctorate:
Lance Armstrong, you bear the message of hope for all who confront seemingly insurmountable obstacles. With tremendous grit and courage, you conquered extraordinary challenges in both your health and career. Your candor about your fight to overcome cancer elevates awareness, inspires important research, and unites a legion of band-wearing LIVESTRONG believers who share your conviction that cancer can and will be beaten. The Lance Armstrong Foundation focuses education, practical help and advocacy into a powerful force for compassion and cure. Your journey to survival is perhaps your greatest, but not your only profound accomplishment. In addition to being an inspirational hero to millions of people who suffer from cancer, you are a legendary athlete and a truly deserving champion. Your cycling comeback is a story of sheer determination. As the seven-time victor of the grueling Tour de France, you raised the bar in international cycling to a level unprecedented. You proved that perseverance carries the day, and that courage, determination, preparation, and teamwork can beat all odds, whether climbing the mountains of France or overcoming cancer. For your remarkable accomplishments both on and off the bike, Tufts University proudly honors you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Technically the first five sentences of this accolade remain true, though the rest of it looks a little embarrassing in light of the USADA’s decision.
Honorary degrees, which are basically fake academic credentials awarded to rich or famous people by universities in a effort to solicit donations or generate publicity, are pretty silly, so the Tufts decision with regard to Armstrong is pretty insignificant.
Does it mean anything to the disgraced cyclist, however? Perhaps. Armstrong appeared pretty happy with his fake degree back in 2006. As he said upon receiving the degree,
For a guy who barely made it out of high school, I find it incredibly ironic that I am standing up here as a doctor. I would just ask that somebody send the photos to the principal at Plano East Senior High and let them know that I, in fact, graduated from Tufts and he has to call me Dr. Armstrong now.
Well, not much lost; no one was ever going to call him “Dr. Armstrong” with a mere honorary degree anyway.