An Attempt at Understanding Lance Armstrong

By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek

October 19, 2012

Lost in the headlines of the Lance Armstrong scandal is a central truth that might well explain the evolution of his behavior. In allegedly doping, cheating, and using all means possible to get ahead in his victorious cycling career, Armstrong harnessed all of the behaviors most needed to triumph over cancer.

When you’re diagnosed with cancer you do everything within your power to get an edge on the disease. You pull in every conceivable favor to cut the line and see the top doctors. You battle your insurance company, lying if you have to, to get a little more money for tests. You willingly consume dangerous cocktails of drugs you’ve never even heard of. The rules that apply to everyone else, at least for the time being, no longer apply to you.

Lance Armstrong had never won more than a couple of stages of the Tour before he battled cancer. Afterward, apparently using all means possible, he won seven. While I’m in no way condoning his actions, isn’t it conceivable that the behaviors that became commonplace during the two years Armstrong’s life was consumed by fighting off cancer became so ingrained that they came to rule his cycling career as well?

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