Lance Armstrong, Hollow Magic

Lance Armstrong doping: How the cyclist is like Lehman Bros. – Slate Magazine

Many of us instinctively presume that cheating creates a level playing field. In fact, it does precisely the reverse. Widespread cheating rewards the few who have the best information, the most money, and the highest risk tolerance. In this world, Armstrong and his team ruled: Armstrong spent more than $1 million maintaining his exclusive relationship with Dr. Michele Ferrari, regarded as the sport’s best doping doctor. Armstrong used his private jet to transport drugs, and he cultivated a friendly working relationship with the sport’s governing body that, according to the USADA report, may have helped him evade sanction for a suspicious drug test in 2001. Armstrong also had an entrepreneurial attitude toward risk, hiring his gardener to follow the 1999 Tour de France on a motorcycle and deliver EPO.

While a few intrepid journalists were farsighted enough to cast doubt on the validity of Armstrong and Postal’s dominant performances, most were content to focus on the myth-like story they witnessed on the road each July. Only in 2010, when the federal government and USADA began their respective investigations, did the truth begin to emerge. Thanks to investigators and the riders who have stepped forward, cycling now faces its watershed moment: an opportunity to build a culture of meaningful regulation, accountability, and to ensure a clean sport for future generations.

The Armstrong era happened because doping worked so powerfully and lucratively that no one—not riders, not cycling’s governing body, not the media—was willing to stop it. It was a time of hollow magic. It helped create kings and heroes that were too big to fail.

Until, all at once, they weren’t.

Lance Armstrong doping: How the cyclist is like Lehman Bros. – Slate Magazine

The article goes on to point out the similarities between cycling corruption and that in the investment firms of the 2007-8.

I have been telling my class that many of the stories we find in the media are negative business ethics stories, success stories where individuals have made enormous sums of money by flouting the rules or subverting the purposes of the government to gain a competitive advantage. These are stories that make a mockery of following the rules, doing the right thing or simply obeying the law.

How do you teach business ethics when you compete with a “win at any cost” culture? In a society where the worship of the “long green” seems to have supplanted much of Christianity, it is hard to argue for the intrinsic benefits of living the virtuous life.

The good fight is worth fighting but the media ethos is a detriment to that fight and to a continuing fidelity to right and truth.

James Pilant

The Cyclist that didn’t cheat?
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