Closing The Book On An Ethics Villain

Lance Armstrong is the worst sports ethics villain of all time, I believe—cycling’s Barry Bonds, but in a sport far more vulnerable to betrayal than baseball. Like Bonds, he cheated, many times and over a long period, taking victories away from more deserving athletes while enriching himself. While Bonds never had his public “I did not have sex with that woman” moment of brazen denial, Armstrong had many, all the while insulting and condemning his accusers. Bonds also never was a revered hero of children—Barry appeared to care about no one but Barry—while Armstrong deliberately made them part of his scam. When Armstrong’s elaborate schemes, lies and cover-ups were revealed, he made lifetime cynics of hundreds of thousands of young fans, and maybe more.

Armstrong, like Bonds, left his sport in disgrace but took with him great wealth, and, like Bonds, has never shown a smidgen of sincere regret or contrition—sociopaths are like that. Yesterday it was announced that Armstrong will pay $5 million to the federal government in settlement of a fraud lawsuit. The U.S. said that he owed $100 million to taxpayers for accepting sponsorship funds for his cycling team from the U.S. Postal Service while he was doping. Armstrong also agreed to pay $1.65 million to cover the legal costs of Floyd Landis, a former Armstrong teammate and the whistleblower in the case.

Eh, whatever. Lance can afford it. Despite various fines and settlements, he managed to escape his exposure with most of his ill-gotten gains safely salted away, spent or invested.

The Justice Department  said the settlement showed that “no one is above the law,” after its lawyers described Armstrong  as “a doper, dealer, and liar” and a contractor who profited from “years of broken promises.” “A competitor who intentionally uses illegal PEDs not only deceives fellow competitors and fans, but also sponsors, who help make sporting competitions possible,” said Chad Readler, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil division.

Lance, typically, still plays the victim. “I rode my heart out for the Postal cycling team, and was always especially proud to wear the red, white and blue eagle on my chest when competing in the Tour de France. Those memories are very real and mean a lot to me,” he said. “I am glad to resolve this case and move forward with my life. I’m looking forward to devoting myself to the many great things in my life — my five kids, my wife, my podcast, several exciting writing and film projects, my work as a cancer survivor, and my passion for sports and competition. There is a lot to look forward to.”


Meanwhile, someone needs to file a taxpayers suit against the Postal Service, which paid Armstrong’s cycling team $32.3 million between 2000 and 2004 to wear the service’s express delivery logo. No wonder this archaic and inefficient agency is losing money—it tosses millions to the winds like the prospectors in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” What genius pushed through the batty theory that having a bunch of cyclists wearing its logo—offhand, I can’t even recall what the logo is— in a French bicycle race would make a single cent of extra income for the Postal Service?

I wrote about this aspect of the Armstrong debacle almost five years ago, and it still drives me crazy.


Source: Washington Post

21 thoughts on “Closing The Book On An Ethics Villain

  1. Personally, I don’t want to hear about his ‘work’ as a cancer survivor. I, too, am a, so far, cancer survivor. My beautiful, intelligent and worshipped wife was not. So, just to be blunt, he’s got nothing to say to me.

  2. Why do publicly owned or regulated entities advertise? Arizona Public Service, the big electric company in Arizona, has a big sign up at the ball park? And they run TV ads. Why? Will it make me jump up and turn on some more lights? Lower my air conditioner thermostat? Incredibly dumb. And the Corporation Commission lets them include this in their rate base?

  3. Jack, I’ve followed pro cycling for years, and this guy indeed is a terrible human being in so many ways. I don’t want to defend his actions at all, but I have to disagree with your statement that he has never apologized. He has apologized – truthfully, I believe – for the very thing you mention: ruining the lives of his accusers. Betsy Andreu, wife of pro Frankie, was the first person to experience his anger and wrath, and he has apologized to her many times (though I don’t believe she has ever accepted any of them or spoken to him in many years). What he has not apologized for, and this is what I find interesting, is the act of doping! I know this falls into one of your Ethics Rationalizations, but he has always maintained the “everyone was doing it, so I had to, and we did it better than everyone else” argument. He may indeed be a sociopath, as you say, but I found it at least intriguing that he is adamant on that last point: everyone did it, and if you wanted to compete, you had to do it, too. But I do believe his apologies were sincere. (I also believed he wasn’t a doper, so I may just be a naive idiot, too…)

    • Did you watch the Oprah interview? All my sociopath alarms were ringing off the wall. Sociopaths never sincerely apologize. Still, I endorse your approach. It’s better to be too trusting than too cynical.

  4. Jack, You said about the USPS: “No wonder this archaic and inefficient agency is losing money … .”
    Actually, the USPS is operating at a loss because of congress’s requirement that it fund 75 years of pension benefit liability. Also, this “archaic and inefficient agency” saves UPS money because it can do the finial leg of residential deliver cheaper than UPS because it’s delivery system is a lot larger then UPS’s
    This would have been a great post if you had limited it to the ethics villain Lance Armstrong.

    • It’s simple math, Orin: if you give millions to sponsor an athlete when it does absolutely nothing to improve the bottom line, those millions become deficits, and it is one reason the USPS is losing money…not the only reason, but then I didn’t say that. My statement also refers to incompetent management decisions, of which Lance’s pay-off was an example.

      “Archaic and inefficient” is absolutely valid: it exists now to deliver useless and wasteful catalogues at discounts for retailers.

      • But it is mandated by the constitution just like the archaic and inefficient 2nd Amendment. (Like the 2nd amendment the post office is a constitutional mandate. (Art.2 sect.8)) If you ad back the prepayed pension obligations they do generate a surplus at the same time they they are helping UPS’s bottom line and none of the UPS packages that the USPS delivers to my door are useless and wasteful catalogues. You said: ” My statement also refers to incompetent management decisions, of which Lance’s pay-off was an example.” agreed! But you should have stated that concrete and specifiic lapse rather then the vague and over broad archaic and inefficient broadside. I still think that a great post would have been even better had you not veered off the main point of the post which was Lance Armstrong.

        • Thanks for raising the Constitutional requirement for the Postal Service—it’s a fascinating problem all by itself. Will it take a Constitutional Amendment to get rid of the damn thing, or will a maneuver that keeps using the term while reducing the antiquated paper-based commmunication agency to something very different and not obsolete?

          • The USPS is the most secure method of shipping small high value items such as gem stones. That is registered mail. This maneuver that your talking about would it work for the 2nd Amendment thereby reducing both accidental and deliberate gun deaths and injuries? Maybe
            interpreting “keep and bear arms” to mean one is actually a member of a “well regulated Militia?”

            • The USPS is also the only permitted method of sending physical media that contains classified data, because of the requirement for chain-of-custody where the package is ALWAYS in the hands of a government employee.

              It will go on forever for that reason alone.


  5. Jack wrote, “Meanwhile, someone needs to file a taxpayers suit against the Postal Service, which paid Armstrong’s cycling team $32.3 million between 2000 and 2004 to wear the service’s express delivery logo.”

    Seriously, $32,300,000 ad campaign with a cycling team over 5 (inclusive) years? This absurdity from the United States Postal Service (USPS) completely boggles the mind. That’s enough money per year to be 100% government sponsored for the entire team; there is something is very fishy with this particular ad campaign.

    I hope no one thinks that this is the only absurd abuse of money within the USPS. There should be a special counsel investigation into the advertising practice of the USPS over the last 20 years.

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