The Last of Lance

The Lance Armstrong Fan Club writes to the US Anti-Doping Agency to protest its witch hunt.

Lance Armstrong has announced that he will no longer fight doping allegations, meaning that the Anti-US Doping Agency will effectively ban him from cycling and strip him of his titles. “If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and — once and for all — put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance,” Armstrong said in a statement. “But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair.”

It’s a shrewd move. Now Armstrong fans and admirers who refuse to acknowledge what is overwhelmingly likely bordering on certain—that he is a cheat, a liar and a fraud—can argue that poor Lance is a victim, and never was “proven guilty.” Of course, poor Lance has made millions of dollars and lived the life of a celebrity and hero for more than a decade, and he not going to forfeit any of that, or his freedom, no matter what rational people think of him. Like Barry Bonds, baseball’s most successful steroid cheat, he pulled it off, exploiting his sport, deceiving the public and taking advantage of a “look the other way” culture that corrupted bicycle racing even more thoroughly than steroids corrupted baseball. Continue reading

The Jack Berghouse Cheating Conundrum: Bad Father? Good Father? Ethics Corrupter?

Should we condemn Jack Berghouse for being a good lawyer?

Should a parent defend a bad egg? A cheating bad egg?

Berghouse has intervened to keep his son, a sophomore at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California, from being kicked out of the honors program for copying his homework assignment from the work of another student. He doesn’t dispute that his son cheated—-his son admits it, and was caught red-handed. Dad is suing the school because he says its policies are conflicting, and thus his son was deprived of due process. He may be right about that. He is also doing it because, as a father concerned about his son’s future, he worries that the blemish on his record will affect his ability to get into an Ivy League college. He’s probably right about that, too.

But is it right—that is to say, responsible and ethical— for parents to use lawyers and the court system to intimidate schools into whitewashing a student’s records? The vast majority say no, which is doubtlessly the reason why Berghouse reports that he is getting hate mail. Continue reading

No Excuses and No Mercy For Lance Armstrong

Sorry, Lance…good guys don’t cheat.

Back when Barry Bonds was still playing baseball, a sportswriter mused about why it was that everyone assumed  Bonds was a performance-enhancing drug cheater despite his protestations to the contrary, while most Americans and sports journalists brushed away similar allegations regarding Lance Armstrong. Both competed in sports with acknowledged steroid abuse problems; indeed, the problem in bicycle racing was presumed to be more pervasive than in baseball. (A few years later, with the banning of multiple Tour winners, the presumption became a certainty.) Both athletes had improbable late career improvements in their performance to reach previously unimaginable dominance in their respective sports. Both had to explain or deflect multiple credible accusations of cheating and circumstantial evidence that suggested that they were doping. Both claimed they had never failed drug tests, and there were good reasons to doubt the denials.

So why was Bonds a villain by consensus and Lance an untouchable hero? The sportswriter explored many theories (Apologies: I cannot locate the article. If someone can, please send it), among them the greater popularity of baseball over cycling, Bond’s startling physical transformation into a behemoth while Armstrong remained cyclist-sinewy,  Armstrong’s inspiring story as a cancer survivor, Armstrong’s philanthropic work,and the fact that Bonds, unlike Armstrong, was black. The biggest difference, however, and to the writer the key one, was that Armstrong acted the role of a hero, while Bonds refused to. Armstrong was friendly and accommodating, while Bonds was angry, intimidating and antagonistic. Armstrong seemed like someone who played by the rules, and who lived his ethical values. Bonds seemed like a rebel, one who wouldn’t hesitate to break the rules for his own benefit. In short, the public wanted Armstrong to be the hero he seemed to be, so they ignored the evidence linking him to performance-enhancing drugs.

After last Sunday, the disparate public perception of Bonds and Armstrong, always illogical, became unsustainable. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Adam Dachis

“All posts that belong to the Dark Side are going to feature some ideas that might be a little evil or at least require some flexible ethics. Some things will be downright horrible, and you should not do them, but are either for your information or simply for the point of interest (and will be noted as such). Your judgment and actions are your own, so think before you do anything you read here and only use your dark side for good.”

Adam Dachis, ethics corrupter, in the “Dark Side Disclaimer” that accompanies his column on the website Lifehacker, called “Secrets from the Dark Side.”

His current “Secrets from the Dark Side” column is entitled “How to Lie, Cheat, and Steal Your Way to a Perfect Flight,” which is an accurate description of its contents. Some of Dachis’s “tips” (scams? cheats?) are interesting, some are humorous, and all (well, maybe with one exception) are unethical. Dachis, for his part, doesn’t have the guts to advocate outright the conduct that he is explicitly promoting, nor does he condemn it. As his ethically incoherent ( “Only use your dark side for good”) disclaimer demonstrates, he thinks ethics is a game of some sort, and that being a “little evil” is cute, or trivial, or something.

A true ethics corrupter, Dachis wants to avoid personal accountability for the unethical acts of his readers spurred entirely by his post, while at the same time getting credit for his cleverness. This is the Richard Nixon approach to ethical corruption, planting seeds and disclaiming responsibility for the crop, telling followers, “We could do that, but it would be wrong.” Wink, wink.


The Bonds Verdict: Fair Enough

The results of the Barry Bonds trial, which today concluded with the jury finding baseball’s all-time home run champion guilty of obstructing justice by misleading a grand jury investigating the distribution of illegal and banned steroid to professional athletes but unable to agree on the perjury charges, helps to balance the ethical scales. It should silence the shameless Bonds defenders who misused the “innocent until proven guilty” standard to maintain poor Bonds was being unfairly suspected of inflating his biceps, head, statistics and income through the marvels of chemistry, though it was blatant and obvious in dozens of ways. Now he has been proven guilty—not of everything, but for celebrity justice, in a trial where much of the most damaging evidence was withheld from the jury, enough—, so the claims of racism and unfair prosecution will ring even hollower now. Continue reading

Rangel’s Corruption Continues, Whatever He Calls It

“In all fairness, I was not found guilty of corruption, I did not go to bed with kids, I did not hurt the House speaker, I did not start a revolution against the United States of America, I did not steal any money, I did not take any bribes, and that is abundantly clear.”

—-Rep. Charles Rangel, less than a week following his historic censure by the House of Representatives for repeated violations of House ethics rules

Thus did Charlie Rangel embrace the Clinton Standard after proven unethical conduct, which can be loosely translated as “it’s not what I did that matters, it’s what I didn’t do that should have counted.” In Clinton’s case, the defense was that his lies and obstruction of justice were in the context of what he and his defenders dubbed “personal” misconduct, not the official “high crimes” required by the Constitution, and that his real offense was being a Democrat. Rangel’s adaptation: sure he broke rules, but that was not what the House has called “corrupt” in the past, and thus he can hold his head up high. Continue reading

DeLay and Blagojevich: Not Vindicated, Not Innocent, and Not Ethical

Both Rod Blagojevich and Tom DeLay were taking victory laps this week, Blago because a jury failed to come to an agreement on his trial for selling political favors, DeLay because the Justice Department dropped its prosecution of  him. In the minds of both of these corrupt and shameless politicians, they were indeed vindicated, because both operate under the delusion that if one’s conduct manages to avoid breaking laws to the point where one could be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then that conduct is “ethical.” This same delusion has been shared by many other human blights on American society and ethical corrupters in business and politics, including Presidents Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, Ken Lay, the executives at Goldman Sachs and AIG, Marion Barry, Maxine Waters, and too many others to mention. It is still a delusion. Continue reading

The Human Ethics Train Wreck, Levi Johnston

Some people think that Sen. John McCain will go down in infamy for turning a little-known Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, into a wild-card political power. His surprise choice of Palin to join him on the 2008 GOP ticket also set into motion a chaotic series of events that have turned an ordinary, not too bright young man into a celebrity monster, allowing him to display his own serious character deficits while simultaneously enticing others into further degrading their own.

To paraphrase the great Basil Faulty: Thank you, ohhh thank you, so bloody much, Sen. McCain, for giving us Levi Johnston! Continue reading

Charlie Rangel, Ethics Corrupter

Rep. Charles Rangel—statesman, icon, war hero, and Congressional force of nature—stands accused of ethics violations many and serious, ranging from using his influence to raise money for an institution named after him, to accepting trips and other benefits from special interests, to failing to pay his taxes. Actually, “accused” is a technicality in Rangel’s case, or rather cases, because the facts are plain and damning in every single one. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially refused to do anything about Rangel (he was eventually asked to step down, if only “temporarily” from his position as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee) by saying, “Wait for the results of the investigation.” She meant, considering the shameless politicization of the House ethics process, “Let’s see if he can skate by this time.” He couldn’t. Rangel did all of the conflicted, reckless and irresponsible things he has been accused of, and actually admits doing most of them. He refuses to resign, however, and proclaims his “innocence,” not because he didn’t do unethical things, but because he doesn’t believe it should matter. Continue reading