The Lesson of Lance

Even if you don’t follow professional sports closely, as I don’t, you’ve probably caught news of the spectacular downfall of professional cyclist Lance Armstrong.  Over the past couple of weeks, due to compelling evidence that he engaged in the illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs throughout his cycling career, Armstrong has been stripped of his titles, his endorsements, and much (it should be all) of the respect that he had fraudulently earned as an individual who had beaten cancer and then supposedly reached peak physical health through determination and hard work.

Nevertheless, excuse-makers for Armstrong — including Fox News’ Dr. Keith Ablow, who’s more often a proponent of personal responsibility — are citing early-childhood events, like abandonment by his father at age two and his mother’s focus on a new husband beginning shortly thereafter, as precursors of adult antisocial behavior.  If you’re a regular reader or viewer, you know that I hate deadbeat parents, and I also hate when single parents focus more on their own love lives than on their already-wounded kids, but to imply that those things predestined Armstrong to cheat is to insult anyone who had similarly-bad (or worse) childhood experiences yet conducts him/herself with integrity and character as an adult.  Theirs are stories of determination, hard work, and deserved success in life.

Armstrong’s is a story of narcissism, which can be borne either of self-aggrandizement or or self-pity but which results in the same sense of self-entitlement either way.  Maybe Armstrong’s mother was too preoccupied to tell him that “cheaters never prosper,” but once someone reaches adulthood with a reasonably-functional brain, he/she is both able and expected to figure that out for him/herself.  I don’t feel sorry for Armstrong.  I’m glad that he got caught cheating; I’m glad that he’s losing many (again, it should be all) of his ill-gotten gains as a result; and I’m glad it’s happening publicly, so that kids can be broadly aware of it.  This is the lesson of Lance Armstrong — for adults, too, but especially for kids — fame, money, and respect acquired dishonestly are fleeting, empty, and subject to eventual, crushing collapse.


One Response to The Lesson of Lance

  1. Think Britney Spears shaving her head to foil a drug test would be extreme? I’ve been an expert in cases in which people have catheterized themselves to foil drug tests — they’ve taken clean urine, theirs or someone else’s, saved it in plastic IV-type bags in fridges, warmed it up in microwaves when test time rolled around, emptied their bladders of their dirty urine, fed catheters up their urethras into their bladders, filled their bladders back up with the stored, clean urine, then produced clean, warm samples in front of the drug testers. No joke. Sound painful? Sound like something you’d ever think of doing for money or status? Perhaps the wildest thing about it is that succeeding that way seems to generally take as or more work and dedication than succeeding by the rules would take. So why do they do it? In some cases, I think it’s partly their belief that they can’t succeed legitimately, but in virtually all cases, I think it’s partly their sense of entitlement to succeed, and partly their enjoyment of “beating the system.” Two out of three of those factors, the entitlement and the enjoyment, which are often the only factors in play, are antisocial.

%d bloggers like this: