As an avid endurance athlete for most of my life, I’ve followed Lance Armstrong’s rise, and most recently his fall from super stardom after the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) presented their evidence that undeniably proves that Lance Armstrong was a cheat and a liar for the majority of his athletic career. His story of returning to the highest level of cycling competition after his bout with cancer has always been suspicious to me. I’ve had many spirited discussions with people that believe in this miracle and were critical of my position that he has always been a drug doping cheat . That being said, I too wanted to believe in his “Cinderella” story, but the facts simply didn’t add up.
It wasn’t until almost all of the other top pro riders that Lance competed head to head against starting testing positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) and blood doping that I realized Lance’s story was no Cinderella miracle, but simply a case of a good athlete and an even better cheat.
For those of you that want to understand how the biggest fraud in sport history got away with it for so many years, read this article by Velo News that summarizes the 200 page report released by the USADA last week.
I’m an advocate for health and wellness, and it is my hope that I make personal lifestyle choices that will maximize the quality of my life and the lives of others. Lance Armstrong has been hiding behind a similar life purpose through his LiveStrong charity and his personal battle with Testicular cancer. Unfortunately he was deceiving his fans, and the general public that were captured by this amazing story of determination and willpower, but worst of all; he deceived the cancer community. Because of Lance’s involvement with the LiveStrong cancer charity (Note: as of Oct 17 Lance stepped down as Chairman), he’s not just disappointed his cycling fans, but he’s knocked the wind out of the sails of the kid that’s fighting Leukemia, or the single mother that’s been diagnosed with breast cancer, or the dad that has to deal with Testicular cancer, all who looked up to him as a source of hope and inspiration.
The “Reasoned Decision” released by the USADA, which I read in its entirety, describes the actions and behaviour of a despicable man, whose own self interests trumped all his decisions and would aggressively attack anyone that got in his way, including his closest friends, teammates, and individuals that remotely questioned his ethics or suspicion of drug use.
It’s been clear for some time to most competitive cyclists that Lance has been cheating for years. I didn’t need to see a positive blood test for banned substances to know that a cyclist at his level could be better than his competitors that were receiving a 10% to 15% performance boost from their drug programs. I often found myself having spirited debates with people that wanted to believe that Lance’s fairy tale performance was legitimate, just because he never tested positive. Let’s remember, Marion Jones was never busted for drug use and she ultimately confessed and went to jail. I would argue that I don’t need to see it snow throughout the evening to know that it snowed during the night if the ground was covered with snow in the morning.
Because the Lance Armstrong story crosses from the relatively small cycling community into main stream media, many people believed his entourage of lawyers, public relations, and team officials that would protect him by spinning stories that provided the believer an avenue to continue believing the fairy tale.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about Lance Armstrong, but I’m troubled with the reaction so many people have regarding this story, especially in light of the facts. I’m troubled that so many people still look to this man as an idol that’s simply being unjustly punished. I’m hoping this reaction is the result of ignorance, because I’m disturbed how these idol worshipers are compromising their own values and ethics by justifying his guilt by saying, everyone else was cheating, so it’s ok. It’s NOT OK!
In a world where humans categorise certain actions of others as unacceptable behaviour; in the case of Lance Armstrong, he’s not only a cheat, but his actions embody behaviour that’s generally reserved for the worst kind of career criminal. Here is a partial list of some of his actions that have been exposed during the USADA’s investigation, which have been corroborated by over 20 testimonies from some of Lance’s former teammates and close acquaintances under oath:
- Drug Dealer: Lance would often source and supply known performance enhancing drugs to his teammates
- Conspirator: Lance, along with the team’s director, doctor, trainer and others developed elaborate schemes to evade detection of his illegal activities.
- Liar: Lance has looked directly into eyes of the public for approximately two decades and enthusiastically denied ever cheating.
- Cheat: It’s now clear that Lance orchestrated the most sophisticated cheating program in the history of sport
- Perjurer: On multiple occasions Lance has perjured himself by testifying that he and no one associated with his cycling team had ever taken performance enhancing drugs
- Bully: Lance threatened many riders on his team that if they did not get on the “program”, they would not be part of the team. Can you imagine if your manager at work gave you that kind of ultimatum, what would your reaction be?
Each of us lives by a set of values, ethics and morals that defines who we are and becomes our personal “brand”. And this brand isn’t defined by what we say, but how we act and are perceived by others. Your friends, family, work colleagues and community will determine what your real brand is through your actions, not words. In the case of Lance Armstrong, we have a complete misalignment of what he says he is, compared to what we now know he is. While Lance was giving the appearance of helping people with cancer, he was exerting the kind of pressure associated with a back street thug on his cycling teammates to take the very drugs that some experts believe may have caused of his own cancer, or lose they would their jobs.
So when I see people that I thought to have a solid brand, consisting of high values and ethics that continue to defend his actions; it brings into question their own brand. How can they say they’re against bullying, drug pushing, cheating, and lying, while at the same time their actions support a guy that encompasses all these despicable qualities? You can’t suck and blow at the same time.
Lance is a multi-millionaire resulting from a sports career based on cheating and lies and I’m sure he sleeps well at night by convincing himself that he was justified in his actions. His only disappointment would be that he got caught. We know now that he is driven by power and self importance and his apparent lack of concern for others, even those with cancer has been self serving to hide the real brand of lies and deceit. One could even argue that Lance exhibits narcissistic behaviour.
The Lance Armstrong story is right up there with other notable liars, cheats and fraudsters, like Bernie Madoff, Tiger Woods, Ben Johnson, Jerry Sandusky, all of whom deceived the public and their community by not living the brand they projected.
But as much as this is a dissappointing story, it's also a story of progress, because I'm optimistic that it has moved the sport of cycling and sport in general, one step closer to the desired state of fair play. Through the USADA’s investigation and the detail they exposed how these cheaters were able to evade detection for so long, has now made it more difficult to cheat at the individual athlete level, as well as the team level. This investigation brings us closer to a day, where the winner is in fact a true champion that is deserving of his or her accomplishments, knowing it was achieved through hard work, dedication, commitment to excellence and fair play.
I look forward to that day.
Enjoy the Ride.....Rob