Buzz Bissinger’s Primer on Unethical Reasoning

Sportswriter Buzz Bissinger, already an Ethics Dunce in good standing, has contributed something immensely valuable to the world of ethics: a cover story for Newsweek that can serve as a teaching aid in college ethics classes.

Titled “I Still Believe in Lance Armstrong,” Bissinger lurches from one rationalization to another, contradicting himself repeatedly along the way. This is a professional journalist, writing in his field, for what once was a respected news commentary magazine. Why is so much of the public unable to tell right from wrong? Because they spend a lifetime reading junk like this: Bissinger’s essay could be Exhibit A.

Bissinger begins by talking about the reactions of his son, a cycling enthusiast who worshiped Armstrong, to the recent news that the tarnished athlete would no longer challenge the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s efforts to strip him of his titles:

“Caleb is not blind. He said it was hard not to read the statement and conclude that when Armstrong said, ‘There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say ‘Enough is enough’ ” and that he was finished fighting the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s fanatical attempt to strip him of his victories, what lay below the outrage was an admission that he may well have cheated with performance enhancers in order to win. That bothers my son. It is why he called the stunning announcement a ‘sad day.’ But it is also why he called it a ‘weird day’ emotionally because of the constant effort to make Armstrong into a villain.” Continue reading

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

Armstrong’s Unmasking: Better Late Than Never

Don’t worry, Barry; Lance should be joining you soon.

Well, I guess I  have to hand it to Lance Armstrong, a bit like Ozzie Guillen when he praised Fidel Castro for surviving his dictatorship against all odds. The evidence, circumstantial and otherwise, that Armstrong is a  prohibited drug cheater ( like most successful cyclists) has been mounting for over a decade, and yet he has managed to hold on to much of his prestige and iconic status. Meanwhile, retired baseball slugger Barry Bonds has been reviled, condemned, prosecuted and vilified, by me among many others, for presumed illicit performing enhancing drug use in his sport that is backed by very similar kinds of evidence that  incriminate Armstrong. Yet while Bonds faces the humiliation of being rejected for election to baseball’s Hall of Fame next year when he becomes eligible, despite being the sport’s all-time career home run leader, Armstrong was preparing to race again to cheering throngs  in an upcoming iron man triathlon.

Then came the news, yesterday, that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has brought formal doping charges against him.  No one should underestimate Armstrong’s skill in wiggling off the hook, but this really should settle the issue of whether he is a hero or a manipulative charlatan. He is the latter. Whether he was a good but weak man trapped in a lie, or a sociopathic con man and cheat can be investigated by biographers and sportswriter, and psychologists. The harm that will be done when his false heroism is irrefutably exposed, however, will be the same no matter how Armstrong came about causing it.  His sport will be permanently tarnished beyond recovery. Scores of children and teens will be disillusioned, betrayed into a cynicism about role models and human nature that should only descend later in life. Worst of all,. his example will stand for some as proof that cheating pays. Armstrong, whatever happens to him, will be rich, like Barry Bonds, even if he is disgraced. He will, as my father liked to say, cry all the way to the bank. Continue reading