I, like anyone who is interested in cycling, have been following the Armstrong implosion with fascination and a variety of mixed emotions. On one hand the sheer force of the man's personality and drive, the way he attacked cancer as ruthlessly as he attacked a stage and it turns out any one who crossed him inspire simultaneously admiration and disgust. Which probably says more about us than it does him. Can aggression and ambition be tempered with humility and compassion? Is it like trying to flip a coin and expect both heads and tails to show, or is it more like the coin landing against all odds perfectly on edge? I have absolutely no idea what the answer is, but it has made me look at many aspects of my own life and wonder at my actions motivation s and my own morality. Armstrong clearly believes he has done no wrong, he has structured his own moral frame work that justifies his actions, in his world view what he did was right, it's just that his world view is substantially different from most other peoples, ( there is an argument that this is in fact sociopathic). I look back at timesI have lived through, one example springs to mind, many years ago as a serving Police officer I was involved in a multiple arrest of a group who were armed with a variety of weapons, it erupted into violence, and t here was a moment when I was literally fighting for my life, procedure, reasons for arrest, had all vanished the survival instinct had taken over, failure could have resulted in my death or at least serious injury. What interests me though with hind sight is what happened to me during that moment, I had to win, and if I am completely honest, I enjoyed it. That is in itself frightening, The opponents were violent criminals who belonged away from society, of that there is no question, the actions of myself and the other officers involved were taken as a whole morally acceptable by the standards of our society, and the courts upheld this and imprisoned the offenders for numerous offences. But morally, even if my actions ( lets be legalistic about this) my Actus rea were entirely legal and moral, at the out sent my mind; mens era was also at a state entirely acceptable to society ( and me), but what happened when the adrenalin and endorphins started to trigger pleasure responses in my brain? There was a point when my mens rea was definitely not what was required by society even if my actions were. Siegfried Sassoon describes something similar when he talks about becoming a "Happy Warrior".
The world wanted Lance Armstrong and he gave the world what the world wanted. To do this he cheated lied and mercilessly destroyed other people. The world does not want this. This is a dilemma that society faces all the time, we want Saddam Hussein deposed but we don't want top see the twisted bodies of children killed by weapons paid for with our taxes, we want to live n a crime free society but we do not want the Police to achieve this in the most practical manner, intact we want a police force that is so squeaky clean it is emasculated. Basically we want our fantasy world, our heroes our military our police to be effective but we do not want the truth. I recently saw an old documentary about the SAS assault ion the Iranian embassy, the SAS soldiers involved were clearly very brave professional men, but it was also quite clear that they enjoyed the killing. They were killing bad guys ( from our perspective) but they enjoyed their job none the less. Does that make it wrong? Should they be contrite? Personally I think not. How does this relate to Armstrong? Well I read a post on the blog Velo Dramatic which linked Mitt Romney to Armstrong and it was that post that inspired the train of thought that lead to this one. In Arm strings mind, life is clearly a battlefield it is a win at all costs universe that surrounds him, the haunting lyrics to the famous MASH theme sums it up perfectly;
The Game of Life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it any way
The losing card I'll someday lay
So this is all I have to say
The only way to win is cheat
We all see the world through our own moral filters, Armstrong through his, it just happens that for most people there is a rough overlap or continuity between those moral filters Armstrong's was different. We might have lauded him on the battle field. According to most of us he was wrong the real question is now are we any better?
Look at the web site Velo Dramitic www.velodramatic.com it is a beautiful collection of photographs and a stimulating blog