Which Lance Armstrong?
The emotions, impulses and mysterious drives that might have fueled the cheating Tour champion—and the honest one
One thing that is apparent when it comes to Lance Armstrong
is that, for some people, his guilt or innocence won’t be decided by USADA
. There will always be, to some extent, two versions of the man: The one who is honest and never doped
, or the one who lied and doped.
[ Lance Armstrong's Endgame
We asked two experts—forensic psychologist Ken Manges, and Paul Ekman, a renowned researcher on lying and liars—to help us understand what sort of internal machinations and motivations might be at work in either possibility. While neither Manges nor Ekman would comment directly on Armstrong, both offered insights into the traits, personality types, and reactions most common among celebrities who have faced allegations of dishonesty, cheating, corruption or similar wrongdoing. What follows are two imagined fictional character sketches based on that input.
PART 1: THE EARLY RACING YEARS
showed amazing talent from the start. His first taste of success came fast and early, and winning was a potent high. He liked the taste of victory—the admiration and envy of his fellow racers, the pride each win provoked in his beloved mother, and the thrill of finding all eyes on him. Lying Lance quickly become a sensation and nationally respected champion, then repeated his success on a worldwide stage. There was no doubt in his mind that he was destined for greatness. He’d always been cocky—he’d admit as much in his best-selling memoir—and his narcissistic streak was blooming along with his cycling career. He would become the world’s greatest cyclist—this outcome felt preordained—but Lying Lance was impatient. He’d do whatever it took to get him there.
was clearly better
than his competition from the moment he clipped his feet in the pedals of his first racing bicycle. Unschooled in racing strategy, he’d make tactical mistakes, like going to the front and attacking right from the start, and he’d win easily despite his stupidity. Honest Lance thrived on the thrill of victory and trained his ass off to keep his winning streak alive. Other riders offered him drugs, assuming that a guy as competitive as him was likely to partake, but Honest Lance was so good he didn’t need their dope. Even so, drug rumors circulated. No one could quite believe that he’d gotten that fast, that quickly, without cheating, least of all the guys who had spent their careers chasing goals that he’d achieved in his first two seasons as a pro. But Honest Lance was unfazed. He knew what he was—a champion—and nothing could stop him.
[ USADA vs. Armstrong: Injustice for All
PART 2: BATTLING CANCER
wondered, if only for a split second, whether the cancer he had just been diagnosed with, which had started in his testes and then spread to his brain and lungs, might have something to do with all those performance-enhancing drugs he’d taken. He told himself this couldn’t be, since everyone was taking dope, and he was the only guy he knew with testicular cancer. But cancer scared him shitless, so when the doctor in that hospital room asked if he’d done drugs, he confessed—yes, growth hormone, cortisone, EPO, steroids, and testosterone—he’d done them all. It was no big deal, really, because every cyclist did it and everyone present in that room knew that doping was just a mundane job requirement for the cycling professional. Drugs were merely a tool of the trade, his talent was what made him a winner. Besides, there’s something particularly unseemly about blaming a cancer on its victim, and in this way, cancer felt like a protective cloak.
knew about the rumors that swirled around the cycling community after his cancer diagnosis. He’d spent his early career dodging the envy of other racers who saw what he did and deemed it impossible. He was good, damn good, and when you’re that shiny, your competition will stop at nothing to tear you down. Cancer was a formidable enemy, but he would beat it. And this victory would make him a better person. The truth was, he’d been a punk in his youth—he’d say this in It’s Not About the Bike
. Cancer was his shining moment—an unforeseen opportunity for redemption. The hero that rose from his brush with death was focused and genuine. He was irrevocably changed, and he was ready to man up and become a hero.