Full disclosure: I was never a fan of Lance Armstrong. He came across as arrogant and dismissive, two traits that I find really unattractive. I also believed years ago that he doped. It was well known that other teams on the tour doped and the mentality of the performance-enhancers era was “if others are doing it – its okay for me because I am simply leveling the playing field. ” I never believed Lance’s denials – I just figured he was too smart to get caught.
My brothers, on the other hand, who are hard working dads, evangelists for never giving up and weekend tri-athlete warriors, worshipped him, quoted him and thought of him when they had to dig deep during their own challenges. My brother Tim proudly emailed this picture to me after he had the opportunity of a lifetime to hear Lance, in the flesh, speak. It was a great day for him.
I happened to be with two of my brothers in LA when the news broke last August that Armstrong would stop battling The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his seven Tour de France titles. But Armstrong was remained defiant- claiming that the move was not an admission of guilt.
My brother’s questioned the motivation of the USADA – but for the first time they also questioned Lance. There is something profoundly sad about watching grown successful men, lose a hero. Grown-ups are cynical- they know the world is filled with frauds. So to find someone who helps you find your best-self and then to discover they are actually the antithesis of who you want to be- is just one more pang of adult disillusionment.
Now that Lance has admitted to cheating, doping and bullying there is a temptation to dance on his reputational grave. I watched Oprah’s interview with Lance last night along with a few hundred others in the twittersphere. The stream was abuzz with comments about his body language, lack of emotion and true motivations. Morning show commentators described the interview as a major PR blunder. One columnist actually went as far as to say Armstrong should have gone a way for five years- let the controversy die down and then return for redemption. She claimed it worked for Nixon.
But what that writer and others don’t seem to understand is that the crisis PR model that worked for Nixon and others who found public opinion redemption- is really just as manipulative as lying under oath. The Armstrong I watched last night was completely uncomfortable telling the truth. He admitted to things that have and will continue to cost him money and further damage his reputation. What he did with Oprah was hard. Waiting the five years in Hawaii while the controversy blows over only to launch a comeback tour with a book deal in hand would have been, by comparison, very easy.
I don’t think I will ever be a Lance Armstrong fan, but I do respect a life-long liar and bully who actually finally admits his mistakes.
The bully mentality in this country can be found everywhere- the NRA after Sandy Hook, Wall Street after the financial crisis- Congress after causing the nation’s debt rating to be lowered. These folks were caught too. But instead of admitting to failures, which is uncomfortable, but brave- they dug deeper in their trench and refused to be accountable on any level.
Armstrong has taken the first step- I thank him for that. It was the right thing to do. If he continues to make good decisions he will find redemption. Admitting to personal failure and working to fix what those failings broke, is much harder than winning a bike race. If Armstrong continues on this uneasy path of telling the truth and trying to make amends, it will be his greatest achievement.
2 Responses to “In Defense of Lance Armstrong”
January 18th, 2013 at 12:08 pm
The interview felt a lot like an AA meeting to me and he’s working on his 12 steps – finally admitting he has issues, making amends to those he’s wronged.
Mary Caraccioli Says:
January 18th, 2013 at 2:20 pm
Time will tell if he can stay on track. But the criticism that he did not look emotional or cry- was silly. I thought his discomfort and coldness made hime more real. That is who he is- had he cried it would have been fake.