We’re greatly influenced by—sometimes positively, sometimes negatively—those we associate closest with in our work lives and our private lives.
I found Tyler Hamilton’s 60 Minutes interview fascinating from more of a social science perspective than a moral one. Hamilton’s and Armstrong’s performance enhancing drug use is an interesting social-psych case study. At some point, probably decades ago, performance enhancing drug use reached a tipping point where a majority of cyclists said, “Screw it, I’m in.”
From that point forward, anyone with Hamilton’s and Armstrong’s physical tools and off the charts competitive drive probably had very little problem rationalizing it with the same mindset that regularly trips up thousands of young people every year, “Everyone’s doing it.”
It’s the same phenomenon we sometimes see on the freeway when it’s turned into a parking lot as a result of a bad accident. One person eventually decides the risk-reward is worth it, so they pull out from the far right lane onto the shoulder and take off into the horizon. Then, a second person. Then, a third. I can either sit and reflect on my moral superiority or get home at the same time as them, but not both.
Given the work culture of his chosen profession, I almost find Armstrong a sympathetic figure. To have “just said no” he would have either had to have found something else to do with his life or settle in as a second-tier domestique stuffing water bottles down his back.
Almost a sympathetic figure because through his repeated, robotic denials, he wants everyone to believe he’s special. He’s the only one who stayed in his lane, but somehow still arrived home before everyone else. That’s how good he was.
It’s as this point, Armstrong turns into a fascinating psychological case study. In one respect, we’re all Lance Armstrong in the sense that everyone one of us maintains public personas, revealing less than the truth about ourselves to the larger world. Of course the difference with Lance is the degree of duplicity.
He must wake up at night worried about what the federal grand jury’s findings might do to his athletic legacy, his future marketing potential and income, and donations to his foundation.
I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t ever expect him to come clean, just doesn’t seem he’s nearly introspective enough. And that’s too bad, because I’d gain some respect for him if he did. Of course, my acceptance and approval are meaningless compared to the rewards of self acceptance.