January 19th, 2013

I just don’t care about Lance Armstrong’s confession

Though you might say, “well, why are you writing a post about it, then?”

I never followed Armstrong’s career, although I certainly knew who he was and about the controversy that whirled around him; how could you follow the news at all and miss it? But if you’d asked me to pick him out of a lineup I couldn’t have done it.

I’ve never been especially interested in elite athletes and their lives, especially those in solitary sports such as long-distance running or cycling. It seems a rather odd thing to devote one’s life to (although each to his own): breaking a record just so it can be your name up there rather than someone else’s (oh yeah, and getting a load of money into the bargain).

Now, I do understand that people are ambitious, have personal goals, want to be the best, want to challenge themselves, all that jazz; and I have nothing against that endeavor. But there’s something about the monomaniacal pursuit of something that’s (to me, anyway) so essentially boring that I’m basically neutral about the entire pursuit.

Nevertheless, I happened to watch Armstrong’s interview with Oprah last night (so, now I could pick him out of a lineup). And he struck me as a very odd duck indeed, which is hardly surprising. His almost reptilian coldness and his sharp coiled tense internal energy were strangely at odds with his somewhat penitent words. Even he seemed to realize that.

Here’s a man whose eyes don’t smile even when his mouth does, which is not often. Of course, Armstrong is now in a situation where a person wouldn’t be expected to be at his warm fuzziest. But I don’t think Armstrong has a lot of warm fuzziness in him even at the best of times.

But that’s no surprise, is it? Look into this guy’s eyes and you will see he’s one of the most competitive people in the world. So, what would people expect from him? That he also be moral, kind, honest, empathic, respectful of others? His eyes would tell you otherwise. Although Armstrong’s victories were achieved by means of illegal doping, all his competitors were doping too, and you might say he must have been the best doper around as well as the best (or certainly one of the best) cyclists. You could give me all the red blood cells in the world and I wouldn’t be winning the Tour de France.

Armstrong betrayed a lot of people, including his children. In the only even slightly moving part of the interview, he talked about that. Saving his son from unknowingly lying in order to defend his father was what propelled Armstrong (according to Armstrong, anyway) to finally tell the truth (or whatever part of the truth he’s told so far; he may still be lying about certain aspects of the story).

“According to Armstrong” will forever after be a phrase with an implied asterisk after it. When a person has lied so consistently, blatantly, and unashamedly, how can he ever be believed again?

[NOTE: I realize I never did answer that first question: then why am I writing about it? Something about the guy’s off-putting coldness, some look in his eyes, grabbed my attention. He reminded me of the villain in “The Terminator.” And that’s not a good thing, although fortunately Armstrong has seen fit to channel his drive into cycling rather than terminating.]

24 Responses to “I just don’t care about Lance Armstrong’s confession”

  1. Charles Says:

    Armstrong who?

    Just kidding. I too, really don’t care. However, it is ALL OVER the news, isn’t it?

    The way I see it is that it is just another MSM distraction from the real news – the Obama mess that continues, more Americans dead overseas, more foreign affairs screwed up, more unemployment, more spending, higher health insurance rates, etc. etc. etc.

  2. Lizzy Says:

    Not only do I not care about Armstrong, but I don’t care about Oprah, either. Since when is she the person who must be confessed to, the person who determines whether the confessor is sincere and worthy of our forgiveness? I’m ignoring them both.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Very perceptive post neo.

    With the caveats that I neither followed Armstrong’s career nor saw the Oprah interview, some speculative thoughts do come to mind.

    Armstrong himself is a historical footnote, his behavior is however of greater interest as it applies to some aspects of the human condition.

    His doping, along with all the other dopers in any sport is a betrayal of that which makes sport, the skillful athleticism of the human body, worthwhile.

    But IMO, while the blatant lying, over and over again is despicable, the far greater sin is his having born false witness against his fellow human beings. In my personal ethical view and lexicon, bearing false witness is a very grave sin, one much greater than simply lying, as it does active harm to another’s reputation.

    I also find his cold eyes, which the ‘smile never reaches’ to be revealing. That tells me that rather than immoral, Armstrong is amoral, that the ‘wiring’ within the mind that allows our conscience to operate is disconnected. One thing is certain, Armstrong is not confessing out of anything but self-interest. In some manner, he believes that this strategy (and it is a strategic move) will be of benefit to him.

    Armstrong in his ‘reptilian’ amorality is perhaps an example of a potential sociopath who has channeled his dysfunctional personality into safe pursuits. Kind of a might-have-been “Dexter” who never explored his deeper impulses, finding satisfaction in duping the world into extending him worldwide fame.

  4. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: “Armstrong in his ‘reptilian’ amorality is perhaps an example of a potential sociopath who has channeled his dysfunctional personality into safe pursuits.”

    Well said, Geoffrey.

    Bernie Madoff was another cold-blooded, cold-eyed cheater like Armstrong. Both have done a lot of damage to their fellow humans. Madoff is paying (at least in terms of the loss of his freedom) for it. It appears that Armstrong will be in court for many years being sued for damages and could end up penniless. IMO, this confession is part of a carefully crafted strategy to avoid that happening. We’ll see.

    The other reason why it is of interest to me is because so many celebrities fall short morally and, after they confess, some of them actually make comebacks. I think that is what Armstrong is hoping to do. We failed sinners among the masses have a great deal of willingness to forgive and forget the sins of the famous and well-placed. Some might call it tolerance while others would call it defining deviancy down. Most people do want to see real contrition before being willing to forgive. But not always. Bill Clinton comes to mind in that regard. Armstrong does not seem contrite. That doesn’t mean he won’t be forgiven by his fans.

  5. parker Says:

    The MSM and the general public love distractions. Armstrong on Oprah, Kim whatshername, Paris whatshername, and what brand of socks George Clooney wears at Cannes are more important that deficits and Solyndra.

  6. Francesca Says:

    BENGHAZI! Don’t let it fade away.

  7. Gary Rosen Says:

    “BENGHAZI! Don’t let it fade away.”

    Too late. Nobody in the MSM is trying to connect the dots between Libya and Mali. Can’t.Make.Obama.Look.Bad.

  8. oldflyer Says:

    Neo, perhaps one reason people pursue solitary sports like running and cycling has to do with a (unconfirmed) report that I saw stating that Armstrong is worth $125Mil.

    I have no strong feelings about Armstrong. I admired his feats, which bordered on the super-human, and required extraordinary discipline and sacrifice. The fact that he was doping, and was never caught by the way, does not change the fact that he did what no one else has ever done. Oh, and before the outcry, I also read that every one of the last half-dozen winners was caught. So, it is questionable whether he even had an advantage.

    At one time I believe that I read that the doping done in this sport, is of the type in which the individual receives transfusions of their own stored blood, rather than taking performance enhancing drugs. Don’t know if that is accurate.

    Anyway, it is a bad message to young folks. It would seem that there is no honesty, let alone purity, in any human venue; including sports.

  9. KBK Says:

    Good post, and good comment by Geoffrey Britain.

    I was hoping it wasn’t true, but when Big George Hincape, his lieutenant, fessed up, it was clearly over.

    Actually, cycling at the Tour de France level is not at all a solitary sport. There are exceptional individuals around which teams are built. It’s the job of the team to protect and support the leader for the win. A main factor is blocking the wind at the 40 mph speeds. The levels of stamina, strength, technology, and strategy involved in the 21 days of the Tour are incomparable.

    It’s my belief that these cyclists are the greatest athletes in the world, regardless of doping. And doping has been going on in various forms for a century and is still rampant, in spite of all the efforts to eradicate it. You would be surprised at the amount of routine and surprise testing that is conducted, and still the leaders are being disqualified.

    Armstrong implies that you have to dope to win. I think this was so – I hope it will change. It’s a great shame to see him removed from the record books, since, if doping was eliminated, I’m convinced he would have won anyway.

    It’s also not clear to me just how much doping was involved. He never failed tests (though he may have bribed his way out of one or more failures.) They did just as much as they could get away with.

    Armstrong indeed comes across as a cold-blooded sociopath. The interview just made it worse. I was very disappointed when Floyd Landis admitted to doping – it seemed so out of character. But with Armstrong, not so much.

    I highly recommend the Wikipedia page on the Tour.

  10. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gender Bïgǒt Says:

    Saving his son from unknowingly lying in order to defend his father

    I hate people who misuse that word. It does not mean what they think it means.

    His son, if he did not know about it, could not POSSIBLY lie about it.

    “Unknowing lie” is a stupid abuse/misuse of the language.

    Lying is the conscious, intended expression of something you know — or at least suspect — is untrue. It is stating things in a manner with the intention of misleading or causing others to believe a known untruth.

    It’s not the expression of an unknown falsehood, either through ignorance or error in belief. That is being mistaken, misguided, misled, or misinformed. Or erroneous.

    Lying is a deliberate act on the part of the speaker. Nothing less

  11. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gender Bïgǒt Says:

    }}} I saw stating that Armstrong is worth $125Mil.

    Feh. Piker. Tiger Woods makes that in a typical YEAR.


  12. ThomasD Says:

    People do not care about Lance Armstrong qua Lance Armstrong. They only care about the story because the lesson of Lance Armstrong allows them to excuse all the petty falsehoods and misdeeds of their own existence. An existence that cannot be otherwise in a decadent world that has rejected any conception of truth.

    That is what Oprah is all about, she is the high priestess of the Church of Feeling Good About Your (Otherwise Worthless and Insignificant) Life.

    Or, to borrow from another dialectic, she is the opiate of the post-modern masses.

  13. Mac Says:

    Interesting post, Neo. I have about as much interest in cycling and Armstrong himself as you do, and yet the headlines have left me with an opinion, and one very similar to yours. Not just these new disclosures, either, but his previously unheard-of (I think) string of victories. After about the third one I began to think “something ain’t right here,” because it resembled the sudden smashing of long-held home run records by oddly bulked-up baseball players. Then there was the rare form of cancer. Then, after the Tour people had lowered the boom on him, I read the only item of any length I’ve read about the whole thing, in which someone who had worked for him detailed his growing doubts, then his conviction, that Armstrong was lying about his doping. It seemed persuasive. The only thing that’s been surprising to me is that he’s confessed. I had figured he would stonewall till the end of his days. And I don’t really care, either; it’s just sort of an interesting, and sad, study in pathology.

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    Mac: I thought he would stonewall, too.

    But I also think that his victories were real victories. If everyone is doping (and apparently everyone was), then the playing field is level.

  15. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    It seemed like he got away with it til he confessed.
    That’s what intrigues me.

  16. holmes Says:

    What about Manti Te’O? 🙂

  17. davisbr Says:

    The history of cycling, like the history of body-building, is a history of the use of pharmocological physical enhancements.

    If we were to go back in history with the same focus as this inquiry took, there would be no medalists left. None.

    They were all …e v e r y o n e o f t h e m …participants.

    Everyone knew. Everyone.

    But so long as all participated, so long as all shared in the common guilt, all were silent.

    Going forward, that will remain as true as it has in the past.

    What do make of this, given that, umm, insight?


    Armstrong’s enemies were more powerful than his allies.

    …but Armstrong and his history will never be worse than the story of his accusers.

    Because unlike them, he remains a lion.

    And they will always be pathetic scavanging jackals.

  18. Gary Rosen Says:

    davisbr is right. I don’t even follow cycling that closely, but I knew it was notorious for doping long before steroids started worming their way into other mainstream sports competitions.

  19. Ymarsakar Says:

    The people that claimed he was doping, never specified what he was doping with. So when tests reported inflammation akin to steroid use, it didn’t quite prove the case. If they had specified a specific human growth hormone or what not, it would have been more interesting and I might have paid more attention.

  20. Anonymous SRS Says:

    Doping does not level the playing field. Because peoples’ bodies respond differently. And because the most effective techniques are hugely expensive–like the USPS Team’s. L. A. coerced and manipulated and betrayed his team mates and more.

    I suggest “The Secret Race” by Tyler Hamilton–even if you just browse thru it, you can see the extent of who Lance is/was.
    And I think he’s more Narcissistic-Bully than Sociopath–but neoneo, you’re the mental health prof.
    ( and no, I’m not fan. But my husband has been following cycling since he was a kid, so some rubs off…)

  21. Gar Taylor Says:

    Mant’i …Lance….??? !!!..wed, thur, fri…let me tell you about my awesome children and grandchildren ….

  22. Occam's Beard Says:

    I’ve never been especially interested in elite athletes and their lives…

    It seems a rather odd thing to devote one’s life to (although each to his own): breaking a record just so it can be your name up there rather than someone else’s (oh yeah, and getting a load of money into the bargain).

    It’s not just athletics; it’s true at the top of almost everything, I suspect, but certainly academics. There are (a few) nice guys who, monomania notwithstanding, are at the top of academia because they are truly brilliant. There are snakes at the top of academia because they are truly ruthless and amoral. Those of us who were neither truly brilliant nor truly ruthless and amoral were necessarily relegated to the second rank.

  23. davisbr Says:

    @Occam’s Beard : Those of us who were neither truly brilliant nor truly ruthless and amoral were necessarily relegated to the second rank.

    I always figured it had to be worth something to be able to look at the guy facing you in the mirror without loathing and disgust.

    After all: you have to face that face every morning.

  24. Sam L. Says:

    Jay Nordlinger, at National,\Review.com, wrote today:P

    “Speaking of presidents: I have been reading a lot about Lance Armstrong lately, in order to write something for National Review. His lies, over that long period, were insistent, vicious, and hot. They were also filled with self-righteousness. He attacked all those who told the truth, and did everything he could to ruin them. When he was forced to come clean, he was still self-righteous, and self-justifying.

    One word kept coming to me: Clintonian.”

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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