- - Sunday, October 14, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Culture challenge of the week: Win at all costs

Livestrong. For nearly a decade, Americans have worn plastic yellow bracelets emblazoned with the motto that symbolized champion cyclist Lance Armstrong’s triumph over cancer.

Perhaps a better motto would have been “Liveclean.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Armstrong, who dominated the Tour de France cycling competition for years, quietly accepted the judgment of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency banning him from competition and stripping him of his world titles.

His offense? Cheating, in a big way.

As reported in The New York Times, the agency found “overwhelming” evidence that Mr. Armstrong had used banned performance-enhancing drugs (testosterone shots and other drugs) and “blood-doping” techniques to boost endurance. His unscrupulous behavior was magnified by his coercive tactics toward other members of his cycling team, as he drew them into his cheating circle. Compromised, these cyclists were loath to expose Mr. Armstrong.

When the agency handed down its decision, Mr. Armstrong denied he had engaged in blood-doping, but accepted the decision, apparently to avoid further negative publicity.

Last week, however, the Anti-Doping Agency released evidence behind its judgment. The truth reveals Mr. Armstrong’s shameful pattern of ambition, arrogance, cheating and deceit.

According to The New York Times, the agency’s report found:

“The [Armstrong] … doping conspiracy was professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices. … A program organized by individuals who thought they were above the rules.”

Mr. Armstrong — the icon of strength, endurance and character — turns out to be a ruthless cheater, willing to harm himself and others just to win. He “bullied” teammates, drawing them into a cycle of complicity and conspiracy of silence. He practiced the art of deceit so masterfully (paying doctors more than $1 million dollars for the illegal doping and to mask the drug use, according to The New York Times) and employed it so routinely, that one wonders if he could ever play fair again.

How to save your family: Do what’s right — nothing but the truth

How did a dozen top athletes find themselves collaborating with Mr. Armstrong’s elaborate cheating schemes? One cyclist, Tom Danielson, who caved in to Mr. Armstrong’s pressure and ended up taking performance-enhancing drugs, explained:

“I never set out thinking I would cross a line, I set out simply wanting to compete, to race my bike and do what I love. And that is exactly what I did, clean. Then, after years of doing things the right way, I was presented with a choice that to me, did not feel like a choice at all. In the environment that I was in, it felt like something I had to do in order to continue following my dream. I crossed the line, and that is something I will always be sorry for,” he said.

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