This past week, Lance Armstrong finally admitted that he had used performance enhancing drugs during his long career as a cyclist. Over the past year, he has been the subject of numerous investigations and allegations in which he has vehemently denied that he used any performance enhancing drugs to assist his performance in winning numerous Tour de France titles and other cycling championships. He admitted in his interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had lied, but wouldn’t admit that he was cheating, because he stated that the definition of cheat is “to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field”.
Armstrong didn’t appear very remorseful in the interview and still didn’t appear to care that what he did was breaking the rules, because he believed all of his competitors were doing the same. Whether or not that is true, the fact that he felt he could continually lie and deceive so many people for so long is what bothers me the most.
So what do we learn from all of this. One of the first things that comes to my mind is the fact that he doesn’t understand that he was cheating. Having worked with the US Cycling team from 1982-1988, including participation at three World Championships and the 1984 Olympics, where we won out first cycling medals in 72 years, I am very aware of the the use of performance enhancing drugs in this sport. Many cyclists, but not all, feel they have to use these performance enhancers to keep up with the competition. However, no matter how you look at it, by breaking the rules, he was cheating. I believe he felt he was above the rules because he is the great, Lance Armstrong, and felt the rules didn’t apply to him. Consequently, he continued to lie because he felt he could get away with it. Does any of this sound familiar to what happened to Tiger Woods when he was caught cheating on his wife? Along the way, Armstrong ruined numerous people’s lives and careers. Apparently, it didn’t matter to him.
Second, no matter what is done, there will always be athletes who will use some kind of performance enhancers that are either illegal, or against the rules to attempt to gain an edge on the competition. Athletes are always looking for an edge, whether it is within the rules or outside of them. Unfortunately, these individuals will always exist because of their own insecurities. If they felt confident enough with themselves and their abilities, they wouldn’t feel they had to turn to these enhancers.
Finally, third and maybe most importantly, Armstrong continually lied to everyone. To his family, friends, teammates and everyone else he lied. He became a victim of sports in our society today. Although most athletes are respectful, considerate and examples of good sportsmanship, there are a few elite athletes who believe they are above everyone else. They don’t believe the rules apply to them, because of who they are. These athletes are continually catered to because they are great at their respective sport, and eventually believe their press clippings and fail to remain balanced in their lives. The reason there is almost an 85% divorce rate for professional athletes within three years of retirement is well documented. An athlete needs to learn how to keep his/her ego in check not only during their career, but after it as well. If they have confidants who can be honest with them and tell them the truth, especially when they are making mistakes, they will be more grounded and honest, especially with themselves.