As if the election didn’t teach us that, as a society, “win at all costs” is the prevailing attitude, Lance Armstrong just cemented it. Anyone surprised by his recent admission to doping has been living under a rock. What would have been more surprising is if he had actually been contrite and apologetic for 1) lying, 2) cheating and 3) bullying others for telling the truth.
Anyone who watched the Oprah Winfrey interview, and the ad nauseaum repeats on morning, afternoon and evening network news shows, knows that Armstrong finally fessed up. He won his seven Tour de France victories by cheating. I had always hoped that he had done it without cheating, as it made such an awesome story: athlete gets stricken with cancer, fights it off and comes back even stronger to win not just once but seven times. But as with other things, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Especially after every other competitor of his came forward and said “yes, I doped.”
Armstrong admitted that he illegally used a number of banned substances, including erythropoietin (EPO), testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone, and he took part in blood doping and blood transfusions. He did this before his cancer, during each of his seven Tour de France wins and since. In other words, he cheated and broke the rules. Then he lied for years about doing so, covered up interim tests that showed otherwise, and bullied those who finally came forward and said that Armstrong did it too. He even won a defamation lawsuit against someone who said he did doped. If you don’t know, that meant he lied under oath. That’s perjury, and as Bill Clinton knows, it’s a felony.
The worst part of it all, as if it could get worse, was Armstrong’s attitude during the interview. In my view, as well as many others, he was not apologetic in the least. His attitude said clearly that it didn’t matter if he did it. He continually defended his actions, coming right out and saying that he couldn’t have won without doping since everyone else was doing it. It was an epidemic among cyclists. So that makes it ok? As my mother used to tell me “two or more wrongs don’t make a right.” But it’s more important to win, no matter the cost. And rest assured it will cost him. He has lost millions of dollars from sponsors, can’t cycle competitively again, has been sued, and will probably face more lawsuits, and has no credibility.
The sad thing is that no one will learn from his colossal lack of ethics, and epic poor judgment. Cheating is an epidemic in our society today. The ends justifying the means is word one. In September of 2007, Denise Pope, adjunct professor in the School of Education at Stanford University, reported that “Nationally, 75 percent of all high school students cheat. But the ones who cheat more are the ones who have the most to lose, which is the honors and AP (advanced placement) students. Eighty percent of honors and AP students cheat on a regular basis.”
75%-98% of college students admit to cheating. And why should we be surprised? Their own teachers and administrators have also been caught cheating on standardized tests required by the No Child Left Behind Law. They also see on the news how people got away with rampant cheating at the ballot box. If adults do it, why shouldn’t kids?
Many teens will say the cheat because their parents put too much pressure on them. College students say they do it so they can get a better job when they graduate. Excuses are just that, excuses. It all comes back to taking responsibility for your own behavior, failings and shortcomings. That’s the fly in the ointment, that pesky word responsibility.
In my own lifetime I’ve seen a shift in who gets blamed when kids fail. When I was in school, if I failed a test, my mother went to the teacher and said “what did she do wrong?” I didn’t get in trouble at school, act out or otherwise, because I knew that the punishment at home would far outweigh the punishment at school!
These days the opposite is true. If kids fail, the teacher gets blasted for not teaching: “there’s nothing wrong with my kid, you just can’t teach!” If kids get in trouble they get medicated, or have no consequences for bad behavior. Suspension is a vacation from school. Parents fight to overrule them so they aren’t inconvenienced by having a child out of school. The message is clear: cheat, lie, act out and there will be consequences … for someone else! Shift the blame, don’t take it.
As a parent, I teach my children that they must take responsibility for their failures as well as their successes. I am like my parents, I ask teachers what is lacking in my child that I can help them overcome. But the feeling of hopelessness that I get when I see how children, teens and young adults act in the face of failure or trouble makes me wonder how small a minority I am really in. We need to do better by our children, and we need to do it NOW.
Image: Lance Armstrong; source: Self-photographed; author:de:Benutzer:Hase; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license