(If you get this twice, I apologize. Technical problems. JGB) “My name is Lance Armstrong, and I’m a doper.”
Recent news reports indicate that Armstrong may soon admit he used performance-enhancing drugs and illegal blood transfusions during a cycling career that included seven consecutive Tour de France victories after he had recovered from testicular cancer. The admission would come in the face of years of aggressive denial and in the wake of Armstrong having been stripped of his medals and banned for life last October for “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
Armstrong had an extraordinary career. He was a national triathlon champion before taking up cycling, and his Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised hundreds of millions for cancer research. Not only does that career now appear built on a lie, but he has joined so many other public figures, from Barry Bonds to Bill Clinton, who have looked straight into a camera and unflinchingly denied the truth.
Their insistence is so pathological it’s hard not to believe them, even as the evidence mounts. Caught in a lie, they lie more. They believe themselves outside the rules for ordinary people and are too competitive to admit failure. While all these are undoubtedly true, I also think that all of us have parts of ourselves we want to shield from public scrutiny because they expose our conviction that we don’t live up to our own self-image. It is so human to be imperfect, but in a culture that insists on heroes it is so hard to admit it.