In 2004, 15 years after he had been banned from baseball after a finding by the Major League Baseball’s Commissioner’s Office that he had violated the games rules against betting on Major League Games, Pete Rose publicly admitted that his denials over that time were all lies. Yes, he had bet on baseball, and he was very, very sorry. Rose’s admission did little to change the verdict in and out of baseball that he was a rogue and a liar. His confession was obviously part of a cynical and calculated strategy to get reinstated in the game, after the strategy of denial and waiting proved ineffective. In addition, Rose needed money, and the confession was part of the hook for his new autobiographical book, which was released at the same time he withdrew his protestations of innocence.
For Pete Rose, honesty was not an ethical value that he respected or returned to in penance after years of straying. It was just another means to an end.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton was in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, denying that he had ever “had sex with that woman.” He called up his old friend, advisor and pollster, Dick Morris, and asked what he should do. Together they decided that Morris ought to take a poll to see what the public’s reaction would be if Clinton retracted his denials and admitted the affair. Morris reported back, after taking such a poll, that while the public would forgive the sexual relationship, anger over the President’s untruthful denials might sink his administration. Clinton decided that honesty would not work to his advantage, and continued to lie.
To Bill Clinton and Morris, honesty was just one of several tactical options to solve a political crisis. If had nothing to do with ethics, or doing the right thing.
It is 2013, and the New York Times reports that Lance Armstrong, now stripped of all his cycling titles, banned from athletic competition worldwide and separated from his commercial sponsors and the cancer charity that bears his name,
“has told associates and antidoping officials that he is considering publicly admitting that he used banned performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions during his cycling career, according to several people with direct knowledge of the situation. He would do this, the people said, because he wants to persuade antidoping officials to restore his eligibility so he can resume his athletic career.”
Armstrong, it is clear, is traveling in the well-worn and slimy footsteps of Rose and Clinton, fellow sociopaths to whom conscience, shame, contrition and remorse are alien concepts and for whom atonement and redemption are just games to win, with honesty being an indispensable, if unpleasant, tactic. When one is considering whether or not to be honest and admit what one has long denied based on cold calculations of personal costs and benefits, truth-telling is no longer a matter of ethics, or doing the right thing regardless of consequences. It is merely another weapon, along with lies, manipulation, deceit and posturing, in the arsenal of one of the lifetime predators whose sole goal in life is to prevail and profit over the rest of the trusting suckers who share the Earth with them, and who will do anything, even to the extent of briefly embracing ethical principles, to get what they want.
Should he decide to finally admit what everyone knows and he has long denied, even to the extent of suing those who declared his guilty, Lance Armstrong should be seen as no more ethical or noble than the criminal who pleads guilty in court on the advice of his lawyer, because the evidence is overwhelming, conviction is certain, and confession is the only route to a lighter sentence.
Individuals like Pete Rose, Bill Clinton and Lance Armstrong defile ethical values by their brief embrace of them.