Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why there should be no place for Lance Armstrong in the public sphere

Last week it was announced that Lance Armstrong will be participating in a triathlon.  The immediate message from the racing series Rev3tri was that this race was under the control of their charity partner Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, and that neither Rev3tri nor Armstrong was going to be paid any money from this event.  As if, how can you possibly disagree with any decision that will raise money for young adults with cancer!

Here is where the case against Armstrong is currently.  Less than a month ago Armstrong gave up his fight against the agency responsible for drug testing of US athletes in hundreds of sports - USADA.  His reasoning was that after over a decade of fighting he simply came to the conclusion that "enough is enough."  He felt like the arbitration process was unfair to him and that USADA was out to get him in an "unconstitutional witch hunt."

I'll leave it to the legal experts to discuss the details of the USADA process - but, a federal judge did throw out his case against USADA just before Armstrong gave up his fight.  So - according to the US legal system - the arbitration process that Armstrong signed onto as a professional cyclist and triathlete is fair.

The outcome of Armstrong ending his fight with USADA is that he has a lifetime ban from all cycling and triathlon competitions.  He can't even coach or be part of the management of a professional cycling team.  So how is he able to race at a Rev3 event - a company that is trying to position itself as a rival to Ironman events?  The event can no longer be an official USAT (the official governing body of the triathlon in the US) - which means they had to find alternative insurance for the event and anyone who was racing the event to get USAT points is now out of luck.

But it's all for the kids with cancer!  Some things are bigger than doping!

Just doing a brief count - I have known at least 7 close relatives or friends who have had cancer.  I even had a teammate and friend in college who died of cancer when he was in his Junior year at the age of 21.  He was just a year younger than me.  He was one of those people who you knew would have done a lot of good in this world. His name was Sean Earl - the Loyola cross-country invitational is now named in his memory.

Since Armstrong gave up his fight in August there have been many articles asking whether he is a villain or a hero - or maybe both.  Rick Reilly of ESPN came down solidly on the hero side.  He even asked people all over to wear yellow the Friday after this all went down in honor of Armstrong.
Nice sentiment - but I think that people who think this way are not understanding the depths of lying, threatening, and slandering that Armstrong has done over the last 20 years to keep the truth from coming out.  So which Armstrong is the real Armstrong?

I was listening to This American Life on NPR a few months ago.  They were talking about a psychological measurement on sociophathic disorder.  They talked about how many sociopaths live very normal lives.  CEO's even score higher on the scale than the average person.  Here is a list of common behavioral traits of sociopaths (from  -  checklists of H. Cleckley and R. Hare

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm
  • Manipulative and Conning
    They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.
  • Grandiose Sense of Self
    Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."
  • Pathological Lying
    Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
    A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
  • Shallow Emotions
    When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.
  • Incapacity for Love
  • Need for Stimulation
    Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.
  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy
    Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others' feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
  • Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
    Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.
  • Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
    Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet "gets by" by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.
  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability
    Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.
  • Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
    Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.
  • Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
    Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.
  • Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
    Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.

  • Other Related Qualities:
    1. Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them
    2. Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them
    3. Authoritarian
    4. Secretive
    5. Paranoid
    6. Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
    7. Conventional appearance
    8. Goal of enslavement of their victim(s)
    9. Exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim's life
    10. Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim's affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
    11. Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
    12. Incapable of real human attachment to another
    13. Unable to feel remorse or guilt
    14. Extreme narcissism and grandiose
    15. May state readily that their goal is to rule the world
     Now - I don't know Armstrong's sexual proclivities or whether he got in trouble as a child.  I also don't think that he's a parasitic individual or has stated that its his goal to rule the world - but the rest seems to fit pretty well.

    Being a sociopath also explains how he could both ruthlessly manipulate teammates into keeping this doping secret and at the same time create a huge organization committed to fighting cancer.  Both of these activities had the same goal - to show his greatness to the world. 

    He has used the raw emotions of people with cancer for 20 years in order to "seek out situations where his behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired."  That is sick.

    All of this always has been and always will be about Armstrong.  Cancer fundraising won't collapse with Armstrong out of the public eye.  Foundations will continue to thrive - hospitals will continue to flourish.  People give money for cancer research because they have intimate experience with the disease - not because of Lance Armstrong's "character."

    I will always remember that when Lance Armstrong was at his lowest - Rev3tri partnered with him and helped him to improve his image.  Overall they seemed like a pretty cool racing series - but, I know that I'll never race at one of their events.  They say that they are all about the athlete.  Just think about the pro's (some who have spoken out against Armstrong) having to race past the "Go Lance!" signs.  Think how that will make them feel about how seriously the public takes their health and safety.  The message is clear - dope up - and maybe one day the fans will be holding up signs with your name.



    ConArtist said...

    The message is 'dope up'??Is that really what you deduce from them allowing an individual who wasn't convicted of anything to participate in an event that raises money for cancer. While you passingly acknowledge that he does some good work, you neglect the fact that HE DOES A LOT OF GOOD WORK. Who the fck cares about the rest if he's dedicating his life to help save the lives of others. Doesn't that TRUMP well...ANYTHING else. What else do you want the man to do?!?! And as you are well aware, his 'teammates' sold him out and were rewarded with sweetheart deals.s...that my friend IS a bona fide witch hunt. It's just fact. If you want to wave your righteousness as an anti-doper (ludicrous in its own rite), that's your prerogative, but to see that you're more concerned with the pros who have to see the "Go LAnce" signs than HELPING TO END CANCER...I pity you.

    Ben said...

    Witch hunts were problems because witches didn't actually exist. He did actually dope. Do you actually think that his need to race in this event has anything to do with "raising cancer awareness." There are plenty of things he can do without racing.

    Has anyone ever said "Wow - without Lance Armstrong raising my awareness I wouldn't have known anything about this disease. Here's a check for a million dollars."

    People give money to cancer research mainly because they've been impacted by the disease. The world doesn't need Lance Armstrong in order to beat cancer.

    Ben said...

    Throughout history criminals have manipulated vulnerable people to defend themselves and evade prosecution of their crimes. Lance Armstrong is just the most recent example.

    Ben said...

    What do I want him to do?

    1) Admit what you did.
    2) Show some remorse and dedicate yourself to ending doping in sports.
    3) Stop trying to raise your Q score up off the backs of cancer victims for two freaking minutes.

    Brian Godsey said...

    While I'm still on the fence about avoiding businesses because of their non-business practices (e.g. Chick-fil-A's abhorrent stance on homosexuality) I am 100% against avoiding businesses because of their business activities. Rev3 (a business) is using Lance Armstrong (a business when he's on his bike, etc) to promote the business of triathlon even though we can be very certain that Armstrong used illegal activities to help become successful at that business.

    I would have no problem with Lance Armstrong continuing to help raise money for cancer research, but I do have a problem with him using his dishonestly-earned sporting success to do so. It's even worse that people believe that any amount of philanthropy can justify cheating.

    Good for you, Ben. I support your choice not to race at Rev3 events. Now we have to figure out whether it is OK to buy iPhones.

    Ben said...

    Thanks Brian.

    I hope that everyone understands that as strongly as I feel it's not easy for me to voice these opinions. Apparently I'm in the minority - not to mention that people seem to feel it's perfectly fine to accuse me of dumping on cancer victims. I had a friend and teammate die of cancer at the age of 21. I know all too well the awful reality of cancer - or any disease can have on individuals and their families. It's part of the reason that I quit my job at the age of 34 to go back to school and become a physician assistant. Attack my argument if you want - but, when you accuse me of simply lacking compassion you only dishonor yourself.

    ConArtist said...

    I think his 'need' to race in the event is coming from a competitive desire in endurance sports. And I think it coincides with his primary interest of raising awareness for cancer research. I find it unfathomable for an entire SPORT to ban him for alleged doping years ago.

    To your second point, yes. Probably thousands of times. You DRASTICALLY underestimate the power of marketing and celebrity. Of course the world doesn't need Lance to beat cancer, but the fact that Lance did beat it gives others hope and I'm sorry if that's not transparent to you.

    Your 'criminal' comment is laughable.

    No one wins with his 'admission'. EVERYONE was doping. And they will all continue to dope. The arbitrary items banned show just how ridiculous the entire doping regulation process is. Ascribing to some discretionary rules that everyone breaks (because they rules are ridiculous and ever-evolving) is not a virtue. It's a perpetual lose-lose for EVERYONE.

    ConArtist said...

    It's VERY EASY for you to write what you do (again, nice righteousness). I don't buy that anyone who really cares about curing cancer would consider attacking Lance with the alacrity you do. The fact of the matter is, you'd rather not see the most visible cancer figure because you think he 'cheated' and that he's participated in 'illegal' activities. THOSE are your priorities. Admit it and return to other bouts of righteousness.

    Ben said...

    "his 'teammates' sold him out and were rewarded with sweetheart deals"

    so, you hold his teammates accountable for disregarding some sort of "honor among thieves" but you don't feel the need to hold Armstrong accountable for his actions?

    Read my post about why I feel so strongly about drugs in sports -

    Not everybody cheated in the time period that Armstrong was winning Tour de France titles. I happen to know one individual pretty well- Kevin Sullivan - who raced clean. If you want to know why I know he raced clean then read the post.

    I'm friends with Kevin on facebook. A few weeks ago he posted how upset he was that Armstrong was running with a group of people after giving a speach the night before in Montreal (Kevin is the Canadian record holder for the mile - 3:50 and was 5th at the Sydney Olympics). He was pissed because a Canadian journalist called the chance to run with Armstrong "tres cool." How do you think he feels about the fact that a race series changed their rules in order to include Armstrong?

    It's people like Sullivan who are the true champions. The fact that the most recognized and admired endurance athlete is a cheat should be an embarrasment to anyone involved with the sport. Instead most people seem to just be looking for a way to cash in - or are so consumed by his celebrity that they can't come to the realization of what exactly he had to do in order to dope.

    You can't lie, cheat, threaten, bully, slander, and cover-up for 20 years of your life and not have it impact your soul.

    ConArtist said...

    I don't think anyone should be held accountable (his former teammates included). I think all should be allowed to use any 'drugs' they wish. Here, we clearly disagree and reading your linked post I can understand why your friend may feel (justifiably) slighted that he didn't use PED's and competed nonetheless. I have a different impression with governing bodies/selectivity/arbitrary nature etc.

    As to Kevin personally, I don't think it's mutually exclusve that both men (him and Lance) can be viewed as incredible athletes and inspirations. In fact, I would view them both that way. If Kevin didn't 'dope' great, that doesn't change my perception of him if he would have anyway. Nor is he less of a man b/c he didn't lose a testicle to cancer. It's not a contest, both guys worked incredibly hard to attain their success. You must admit that Lance is a TIRELESS worker.

    I'm unconcerned with how Lance feels about his own image. What matters to me are actions. And that he continues to provide a necessary forum for R&D for the sake of cancer victims. Beating cancer in itself is inspirational and gives people hope. I don't want to paint Lance as a saint, but given my anarchistic proclivity and his dedication to cancer, he's A-OK in my book. And to guys like Kevin, they are great champions too.

    Ben said...

    "I don't think anyone should be held accountable (his former teammates included). I think all should be allowed to use any 'drugs' they wish."

    I strongly disagree with you, but I respect you for at least being honest. I think many more people feel this way who defend Armstrong - but they hide behind more socially acceptable arguments.

    I don't have time to go through all of the reasons that doping should be illegal in sports - but here is one.

    I actually do think that overall people should be able to put whatever they want into their bodies, but it's different when it's to improve performance in a competitive environment. There's an old saying, "one person's freedom ends where another's begins." EPO improves performance by 15-20%. The difference between most world class athletes is probably less than a percentage point. So, in order to be competitive you would be forced to take PED's if they were legal. I think we can all agree that nobody should be forced to take drugs as part of their job or even worse, their hobby.

    "What matters to me are actions. And that he continues to provide a necessary forum for R&D for the sake of cancer victims."

    Do you really think that Armstrong is "necessary" to further R&D for cancer? The most popular sports league in America (NFL) dedicates an entire month to cancer advocacy. 90% of all road races that include a charity are for cancer charities. Cancer research does not suffer from lack of advocates.

    On the other hand - anti-doping is facing an uphill fight. An increasing number of people, like you, see no problem in stating that drugs should be legal in sports. An even larger number of people hold that same opinion, but don't express it. The budgets for WADA and USADA are a joke when you compare them to how much money is behind the cheaters.

    The money can only come from the organizations that promote and govern those sports - and they won't dedicate the required resources to catch dopers until they see that it will impact their bottom line.

    ConArtist said...

    You make some good points. And clearly we disagree at a base level in our arguments. I think the 'regulating' argument is flawed and a persistent uphill battle that is not worth funding and promoting. But I do understand your complain that that leaves professionals with no choice but to 'dope'. That's likely true. Perhaps there could be two professional tours in a perfect world. One heavily and consistently regulated to almost perfection and one where people are free to do as they please. I know that seems outrageous but it does seem to pacify both sides.

    ConArtist said...

    P.S. I've been trying to find a decent and fair article about the 'lance effect' on cancer research but it's hard to find. I encourage you to look into just how much money he's raised and the political actions he's supported etc. to see just how crucial his presence is. Doper or not.

    Ben said...

    Try the article in Outside magazine on Livstrong : )

    Thank you for being able to admit there are a few good arguments from the other side - a lot of people just quit engaging when they come upon an argument they can't refute fully.

    as for the "drug legal" and drug-free" tours - which one do you think would be the most successful? The one where guys are going faster and arguably sacrificing more for their sport? Or the lame guys who are too prissy to stick a needle in their butt? Our society is set-up to reward the folks who dope - WADA and USADA are the only organizations between us and chaos.

    ConArtist said...

    Ya, I've read that article. There are quite a few that dispute his impact and some that say he's irreplaceable so I guess that's 21st century media. Like I said, he's no saint in my book, but his dedication and inspirational story are commendable and deserve more praise than scorn.

    Well, as you know doping regulation is quite complex with many layers so it's quite difficult especially in a forum like this to convey all my sentiments but yes I do understand the other side and the implications of my argurment.

    I think there's a market for both. For the purists out there, they can stand back and appreciate unadulterated feats. I of course would prefer the one that permitted freedom to choose. And I transfer that onto all sports as well. Perhaps, both might be successful in their own right. Instead we'll continue the painful slog of discrediting/arbitration and rescinding past wins under the current system (which I deem a lose-lose). And I will say, it seems to me that the USADA/WADA is a tad chaotic itself, no?

    Ben said...

    "And I will say, it seems to me that the USADA/WADA is a tad chaotic itself, no?"

    I don't know of anyone who they have convicted who has been later proved to be innocent. In that regard they are batting a much better average than our criminal justice system.

    misszippy said...

    No, fundraising won't collapse without him. But if it is helped, why are we going to fight against it? Here's my take on the whole deal: