Thursday, January 17, 2013

Doping (More Stuff)

Dope.  I've done plenty of Dope in my life, and had to come clean as well. Of course, this wasn't performance enhancing dope, and this wasn't during televised interviews, but was more likely in group meetings or smoke-filled rooms full of styrofoam coffee cups.  And yes, a history of lying means others aren't going to believe what you say anyways. (How do you know an addict's lying? Their lips are moving.  And, of course, beware of the crying addict. They are the most dangerous of them all.)

All of this to say I watched day one of  the Lance Armstrong interview.  I'm not going to pretend to know all the players, or be fully educated, or to have spent a ton of energy making an opinion, but here's a hodge-podge of thoughts;

Oprah was at times a prosecuting attorney, drilling with the facts and such, but on the human side let him off easy. I have seen how Oprah did James Frey from "A Million Little Pieces" and how she verbally castrated him  (which she later apologized for). From the previews, it does seem that the more human and emotional side is coming out tomorrow.

Yes, Armstrong was trying to play the victim quite a bit and search for sympathy.  Yes, he was coached by both his legal team and a PR firm. Yes, he still seems like a wilted, watered down version of an ass. It wasn’t a mea culpa, and he seemingly made the worst attempt at humor in the history of anybody anywhere who was ever tried to look for humor. ("But I didn't say she was fat...."  What was that?)   Cold, calculated pauses seemed to proceed each of his answers, and there was no sense of abject remorse or regret.

But I tried to keep asking myself what my daddy used to ask me to get me to think:  "Would you want to be judged by the worst thing you ever did?"

As for doping to enhance one's performance rather than to get high, the only way I can relate on any scale is marathon running and my ten year attempt at a Boston Qualifier. I was obsessed at times to qualify. It became the one thing that would make me feel worthy, the penultimate validation of my worth and power. I spent hours of training, even more hours of mental preparation revving my engines and studying training plans. I would do anything to accomplish this goal, but after falling short again and again, I was starting to think I was going to my grave with this goal unachieved.

But would I have cheated to get there? Would I be okay to run a BQ time if somehow they had shortened the course for me and nobody else could ever know? 

Hell no, there would be no satisfaction whatsoever in that.

Would I be okay to somehow electronically mess with my runners chip to take off 5 or 10 minutes off my time? 

Hell no

But if I  could put something in my body that would have allowed me to run the BQ time, where it was my body and my legs that were doing it, running the full 26.2 with my unadultered timing chip on my shoe, I might be able to convince myself that I had done it. It was me, and it wouldn't have felt like cheating.

 Had I gotten my BQ that way, however, I do not believe I would have enjoyed it the same way. Sure, the fear of "not doing" it would have been gone, that ghostly shroud of spending years trying to accomplish something but all for naught. (wisdom tells us the journey always brings great treasures, whatever the destination, but don't tell me that if I don't get my Boston Jacket.)  But I would always have wondered what if I just kept on trying the natural way.

And as I sit here today, with legs that are still deadened from training, waiting for them to recover by foam-rolling and spinning on the bike to flush them out. If instead, I could walk to the fridge and get an illegal substance that would  make my legs feel fresh again, and I could bust out  mile intervals tomorrow, 15 seconds faster than I hoped. Well, I don't suspect I would, but until the opportunity is in front of me and I decline, I won't be too harsh a judge.

As a therapist, I've told many a client who has made horrible choices, that had I been where they were and experienced the sum of their experiences and then been at that same moment in time, I may have made that same horrible choice or even done much worse.

What bugs me most about the Armstrong situation, as is usually the case, is the cover up.  His counter attack of destroying and suing and using the full powers of the 'LanceStrong' office to go against anyone who threatened his regime with the truth.

Lance said again and again he's issued apologies, but an apology is not an amends. Lance's amends will need to show up in deeds, not in some words on a chair. Personality disorders, such as Armstrongs apparent Narcissistic Personality Disorder (as is true with the whole Axis-2 cluster-b spectrum) do not disappear but rather, they endure and persist. They can be managed so that they cause less harm, but I don't think this man below is capable of the kind of apology and amends that may be deserved.
Armstrong's Tweet to his detractors, from many months ago.
So, tomorrow is day two. "They're selling postcard of the hanging", said Bob Dylan in his first words of Desolation Row, and it is from Desolation Row Armstrong may be sending all his letters from from now on.

 And then on Sunday, many of us will spend hours watching athletes doped up on the same drugs Lance has been using.

**Here's an interesting CNN interview with Betsy Andreu, who's quite unhappy with the interview.

An interesting video on his body language



Thanks for this. I was hoping you'd write about this as I was interested in your take. I couldn't watch the whole thing today myself. More time on the weekend to catch up.

LBTEPA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Matthews said...

Hey, too late I read it **smile** and it did add to the discussion, but all is good. I added more words to my own, mainly that Cold, calculated pauses seemed to proceed each of his answers, and there was no sense of abject remorse or regret.

Seeking Boston Marathon said...

Nice post Mark. I can see how he got caught up in the doping since it seems that everyone was doing it, but as I tell my teenagers, that's not a good reason to do it. I agree that the biggest problem is the finger waiving, I did nothing attitude he flaunted for years including alienating many close to him. #sad

Anonymous said...

I LOVE it! Although there are a few things that I may not totally agree with about what he's done, I still support him! I have been trying to explain why, and this write-up does it for me! Thanks! :)

Mark Matthews said...

Thanks for responding. I wasn't sure my post was in support of him, but I was trying to take a different angle and not just condemn and dismiss and throw stones. It seems like the biggest damages done was the ruthless attacks on those who challenged him for lies rather than the lying about doping itself. It seems like if you were an elite cyclist, you either doped, or you did not succeed since the playing field wasn't level, which is a shame.

Alison @ racingtales said...

Great post. You pose a very interesting question, one that isn't as easy to answer as we all think. After all, we all take various potions to help us feel better, recover faster, will plunge ourselves into freezing water that makes us scream obscenities because we believe it helps us...

I was thinking about James Frey, too. Because, at the time, I read that book, and really enjoyed it, and wasn't bothered in the least to find out it was fiction. I didn't watch the Oprah interview but I heard that she basically castrated him and I was annoyed because I didn't see it as that big a deal.

Lance, now that's different. Because he destroyed people.

Mark Matthews said...

Thanks for responding. Yes, and I wish Armstrong could understand and have empathy with how he effected others. As for James Frey, I knew 50 pages into the book that it was fiction, (you can't just beat up your therapist in the bathroom and move on like it was nothing), and couldn't finish reading it. There is a strange phenomenon among recovering addicts where they try to outdo each other with addiction war stories. He is a great writer, and in a way, if he had never 'doped' he probably wouldn't have been as talented.

Stokercon 2024 in San Diego

 Spent last weekend in San Diego at Stokercon. What a fantastic time. Multiple panels, many conversations. Laughs, tears, books, conversatio...