Fraud Fatigue: An Inside Look at the Lance Armstrong Saga
By John Masson
April 18, 2013
The years-long Lance Armstrong saga, with its attendant elements of Greek tragedy, came to an end in part because of a simple-enough concept:
That was one of the lessons drawn from the case in a Michigan Law talk this week by William Bock III, '89, and Betsy Andreu, BA '89, who spoke Tuesday as part of the Law School's "Experts in Ethics, Civility and Professionalism" series.
Bock, a sports attorney, is general counsel of the United States Anti-Doping Agency in Colorado Springs. Andreu is married to former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu. And although most of their talk was off the record, a few general themes came out.
Armstrong's story began, for most Americans, as an inspirational one—he was the cyclist who came back from cancer to lead the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team to victory year after year in the Tour de France.
Armstrong won the support of millions by publicly vanquishing cancer as if it were little more than a minor hillock along one of his race routes. But the fact that he later confirmed that he accomplished his many victories by cheating disappointed millions more. First and foremost, Bock said, the case illustrates the importance of living life honestly.
"Your life needs to be based on the truth, no matter how big you are," Bock said. "If you do not base your conduct on the truth, you've got an Achilles heel, and Lance is an example of that."
For Andreu, Armstrong's confession was too little, too late. Her husband had been friends with Armstrong for years by the time Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, and she said she was in the room when a doctor came in and asked Armstrong whether he had ever used performance enhancing drugs. The man who was then the world's top-ranked cyclist promptly rattled off a list of banned substances. Andreu was appalled.
She was even more appalled later, when she found a thermos containing erythropoietin, or EPO, a performance enhancing drug favored by cyclists that boosts red blood cell performance.
"To me, it was black and white. It was wrong morally, and it was wrong ethically" to use banned substances, Andreu said. "But it paid to dope, because there was a lot of money to be made."
Andreu ultimately told her husband that she wouldn't lie for him about his PED use and became a whistleblower in the Armstrong case. She also learned just how hard Armstrong fought back.
"Lance just really came after people," she said.
Bock said the case provides a jumping-off point for thinking about the lasting benefits of honesty. First, it helps control the risk and the message. It also allows truth-tellers to claim or regain the moral high ground and clear their consciences.
"I can't imagine it's ever in the best interests of you or your clients to lie," Bock said simply.
That's a lesson learned the hard way for Armstrong and a wide spectrum of his fellow cyclists. Ultimately 11 American cyclists and 20 Europeans came forward and told the truth about performance enhancing drugs.
So at least in that respect, Bock said, "The Lance Armstrong story is a story of the triumph of truth over a lie. And hopefully it will continue."
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