Is anyone surprised Lance Armstrong used performance enhancement drugs to reach the pinnacle of the cycling world winning the Tour de France 7 times? Well you shouldn’t be. Armstrong is the prototypical narcissist and anyone who knows about his relationship with teammates and family understands Armstrong doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Besides, pro cycling, especially the Tour de France, have faced decades of cheating which has included other past champions and hundreds of others who have been banned from competition. Cheating in cycling is and was rampant. I am not condoning cheating, but if your competition is cheating then it is easy for many to conclude they too must cheat to remain competitive. Many cycling events, not just the Tour de France, are grueling events. In fact, pro cycling tour events may arguably be the toughest physical sport.
As an avid cyclist, I know too well how hard it is to do the 40 mile round trip from my home town to Cottonwood Pass (12,126 feet). I also know what it is like to endure a bad day. And this ride pales in comparison to what pro tour cyclists must endure for several days or weeks of competition. In fact, the U.S. Pro Cycling tour which features many of the top tour cyclists, not only goes over Cottonwood Pass, but they also go over Independence Pass on the same day (131 miles total)!
I am not going to berate Lance Armstrong because his personality is typical in our sports generation (especially cycling, track and field, and baseball). Floyd Landis, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Marion Jones, Ben Johnson, and a host of other athletes are juiced up. These sport stars and Armstrong have one thing in common – narcissism.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that fosters narcissism. Many people, like me, route for these athletes and pay little attention to how they treat others. I was proud to see an American win the Tour de France even though Armstrong was a jerk. These athletes may not get elected to the Hall of Fame and have their titles stripped away, but they are laughing all the way to the bank.
Many of these athletes created their own charities. Maybe these charities have helped people in need, but Armstrong’s Livestrong charity is for the most part a scam. It does nothing to fund cancer research or cures. Millions of dollars are spent to help people cope with cancer. For most, money is not paramount in coping with an illness. And the only reason these big ego narcissists create charities is for their benefit – not the benefit of others. Charities are good publicity and it does not cost them a cent to create them. Armstrong was the perfect poster child for testicular cancer, but very little progress has been made with this type of cancer especially compared to breast cancer and the efforts of little known Susan G. Komen.
Most of us are complicit in the Armstrong fiasco. The media sensationalizes these sports stars and the public is enamored and idolizes these icons. By giving these athletes attention we build up their egos and they feed off it. If we want this cheating and narcissism to stop, we need to ignore those who violate these laws, take away their records, and take away their accolades. And until any of these stars are punished to the fullest extent of the law for violating drug laws and imprisoned they will continue to cheat because the potential reward outweighs the consequences.
The joke is on these former stars because they will face a sad ending to their lives. They will die lonely and they may die young. Many athletes who abuse drugs die young – Lyle Alzado, Marco Pantani, Korey Stringer, and Steve Bechler. And this does include sports figures who abused alcohol and drugs for personal use such as Darryl Strawberry, Len Bias, John Daley, Vin Baker, Dwight Gooden, Roy Tarpley and so on.