Press-Republican

Read

January 27, 2013

A path too easy

On first blush, the Lance Armstrong self destruction has little to do with us. On second thought, it says a lot about our society.

We all know the surface story. Spreading testicular cancer threatened to end the life and career of a good but not great bicycle racer in the mid 1990s. He survived and, in the process, lost so much weight it changes his cycling form. He went on to win seven consecutive Tour de France bicycle races, considered the most challenging in the world. In doing so, he inspired millions of people, and raised almost half a billion dollars to help others survive cancer.

And he did most of this while taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Before he began winning, few seemed too concerned about Armstrong’s drug use. This was in an era when most everybody was doping. But once he was champion, Armstrong increasingly faced doping allegations. Each time, Armstrong correctly but deceitfully claimed he never failed a drug test. Occasionally, he also denied he ever used performance-enhancing drugs.

We now know more. Armstrong was a leader of a team that conspired to cover up rampant drug use. They also squelched and bullied potential whistleblowers. This conspiracy lasted for almost a decade.

In Armstrong’s mind, he never cheated. This is the most interesting, and self-reflecting aspect of the story. He believed unethical behavior becomes ethical in an unethical world.

Armstrong argued that doping did not give him an unfair advantage over others competing to win the Tour. He asserted that, at the elite level, almost every team was taking performance enhancing drugs, sometimes under doctor’s orders, often not, for decades. He also rationalized testosterone injections merely replaced hormones he lost because of his cancer.

Armstrong was not the most aggressive doper in cycling, and certainly not the worst among all elite athletes. Like many athletes, he believed doping was necessary to compete in a sport then rife with doping. Sporting authorities turned a blind eye in return for the 20 percent increase in bike speed doping provided. To racers, the difference between doping and riding clean was the difference between first and hundredth place. In fact, when Armstrong was recently stripped of his seven Tour wins, the sport failed to award first place to the seven runner-ups. They knew that some, and perhaps all, of the runner-ups doped too. Let’s not open up that can of worms. Let’s find a notorious scapegoat to hang out to dry, and keep the cash coming in.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Read
  • colin_read.jpg Good organizations lack drama

    Groups that accomplish their objectives do so with a minimum of distraction and politics, focusing instead on creativity and a dynamic vision, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Parking fines a short-sighted policy

    Tourists should be encouraged to do business downtown without fear of getting tickets, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Technical training a key part of education

    Recently honored, Champlain Valley Educational Services offers meaningful careers for those not heading for college, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Constitution withstands test of time

    The nation's founding document is a delicate balance that we should continue to nurture, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg This region helped shape a new nation

    As we celebrate our nation's history, we must also appreciate the key role the North Country played in the founding of two countries, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Diversity of views a key to progress

    With today's mobile society and 24-hour media, like-minded people tend to congregate together stifling diversity of opinion, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Local heros needed to inspire us all

    It takes individual talent and initiative to truly move a community forward to fulfill its economic destiny, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Fee on carbon needed

    Creating incentives to curb emissions is critical to containing climate change, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Governor inspires renewed shared-services effort

    Tax-cap plan has provided incentives for municipalities to get together to try and increase savings and efficiency, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Pipeline issue has no simple answer

    If Alberta oil is not transported through Keystone, it will cause more pollution to send it to China, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 11, 2014 1 Photo