Armstrong Confesses: What Now?

On the eve of his confession, Armstrong is apparently ruined. The International Cycling Union (UCI) has stripped Lance Armstrong of his titles. Sponsors and Tour organisers want millions of dollars returned. UCI president Pat McQuaid said, “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. He deserves to be forgotten.”

But doping will always be present in sport. A zero-tolerance approach will always fail. But so too will any policy which attempts to restrict access to performance enhancing drugs and interventions in competitive sport. The question is what kind and how many failures will there be. We should choose the policy which best promotes the values of health, spectator interest, enforceability, fair competition and human excellence. That is a policy of regulated access to performance enhancing drugs.

The zero tolerance ban on drugs in sport is an example of the spectacular victory of ideology, wishful thinking, moralism and naivity over ethics and common sense. Human beings have limitations. Lance Armstrong is no god, but he is also no devil.

We should change the rules, and take Armstrong off the bonfire. There will, after all, be more like him

For a more detailed discussion, see this (draft) paper

An opinion piece on Armstrong is forthcoming in this Saturday’s Age

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3 Responses to Armstrong Confesses: What Now?

  • Stuart Armstrong says:

    I confess nothing! It wasn’t me! Witnesses could testify! But they’re all dead and lying anyway! I wasn’t anywhere near it anyway! And I don’t know what you’re talking about! I’m innocent and you can’t prove it anyway! And…

    Oh, that Armstrong. Move along, nothing to see here…

  • Stuart Armstrong says:

    The zero tolerance ban on drugs in sport is an example of the spectacular victory of ideology, wishful thinking, moralism and naivity over ethics and common sense. Human beings have limitations. Lance Armstrong is no god, but he is also no devil.

    Do you think we can recapture the moralistic language for the other side?

  • Keith Tayler says:

    I must confess I have no interest in sport and would welcome anything that would make it less popular. I might be wrong, but, with the exception of some very sad people, I think most sports fans would find the endless analysis of who is on what drugs, what drugs are best, how much of an advantage a wealthy athlete can buy over less well-healed competitors, when to have a blood change, who might be breaking the regulations by taking prohibited drug Super Fast XXX, and of course when will the prohibition on Super Fast XXX be lifted just a tad boring.

    That aside – Armstrong knew he was cheating, he made vast sums of money from cheating, and he threatened to sue those that accused him of cheating. He now claims he did not see it as cheating because everybody else was, but that is obviously not a credible excuse. Under your ’policy of regulated access to performance enhancing drugs’ he would have no doubt cheated by taking unregulated drugs in order to enrich himself and sued those that accused him of being dishonest.

    In your paper you say, ‘Is it still cheating if everyone is cheating? Well, yes. It is against the rules. But in such cases, it is better to ask why is everyone cheating and why are the rules failing?’ It might sometimes be better to ask why is everyone cheating and why are the rules failing, but your analysis and ’rational doping policy’ does not give adequate consideration to those that do not wish to be doped. There is a strange assumption that it is ‘rational’ to take drugs to enhance performance (research into the effects of these drugs does not of course support this assumption). Not surprisingly it would appear that most cyclists would prefer not to be doped and risk their health, and there would also appear to be no appetite among the public to risk athletes’ health and embrace the ideology of enhancement for the sake of a fraction of a second. They would prefer to rely on the improving technology of drug detection and a change in the culture of drug taking in the sport. Of course there will still be those that continue to risk their health by doping and this might disadvantage those that do not dope. But, as you recognise, your policy is not going to stop doping cheats, it will only tempt them to take even more dope. I am not convinced, as you appear to be, that this would be a minor problem given the numerous side effects of these drugs.

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