Friday, January 18, 2013

Thoughts on Lance and Doping revisited

The first post of any significance on this blog was triggered by the first threads unravelling on the blanket surrounding Lance Armstrong's then alleged doping. Last night,  much of the sporting world watched as he sat down with Oprah for a "no holds barred" interview during which he confessed to having doped during every one of his 7 Tour de France victories. As I sit here organizing my thoughts about what I say, the overwhelming emotion is disappointment. However its not disappointment in the actions Lance took through his career, its disappointment in how he is behaving today.

Long ago I came to the conclusion that Lance and many others had cheated. In my last blog entry on this topic I urged Lance and others to come clean about what they had done and let the narrative move forward. I certainly can't take any credit for it, but it was heartwarming when I saw how many actually had. Last night I was hoping to hear Lance stand up before the world, give a sincere apology and recount how it all happened and why. I did not. Instead I heard a man who only seems to regret going too far and getting caught. The only regret I heard was about giving a lame speech on the podium of his last Tour and coming back to the sport after his first retirement because "we would not be having this conversation if I hadn't."

I'm finding it hard to find a word to describe Lance's actions, though the word sociopath has been repeatedly used by his critics. Its hard not to agree. He openly stated that he doesn't feel like he was doing anything wrong at the time. Doping was a part of their preparation like filling up his tires with air or filling his bottles with water. I can understand the elaborate lies and aggressive behavior towards critics as a method to protect his story and control the narrative about his life. I can't understand doing all of that when you don't even think you're doing anything wrong. How can he not feel badly about behaving like a jerk?

Lance worked too hard during this interview to downplay his role as the leader of a team that required doping. He said that he was doing it, and he can understand how others would feel like they needed to be doing it if he was, but that there was never a culture of that stated you had to be doing it to be a part of the team. Oprah made a good point in stating that it was merely a semantic argument, but it shows the psychology of this man who is still fails to understand his influence over people and the responsibility that comes with that influence. If Lance was careful to never explicitly tell riders "you dope or you are dropped," that doesn't change the fact that it was the message that was delivered. When you look at the methods he used against people like Emma O'reilly and Frankie and Betsy Andreau, using his bully pulpit to demolish their reputations when all they did was tell the truth, its hard not to believe that he hadn't used those same tactics on the team internally.

In watching deposition tape where he is vehemently denying doping under oath, Lance described himself as an "arrogant prick." Watching last night's interview, I came away with the same feeling today.

Lauren Fleshman wrote a fantastic piece on her blog yesterday asking Lance to move on. I don't think that he deserves to be a professional athlete any more. I hope that Lance can fully repent. He still has influence and can continue the fantastic work he's done in giving cancer patients hope, in helping raise awareness of the disease and raising money towards its research. I hope that he gets good advice and learns to let the "myth" of Lance die. Its a false story and can only be rescued by full contrition to all that were crushed in its building.

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