Lance Armstrong's teammate has revealed that Armstrong was a dedicated user of performance-enhancing drugs, prompting Armstrong to instantly tweet a non-denial denial. Thus, drugs like steroids and growth hormones join illicit substances like -- you name them -- and non-marital sex as the top three things famous people lie about.
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, May 23, 2011. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
The Three Things Famous People Most Often Lie About
For the umpteenth time we learned -- this time on "60 Minutes," in an interview with teammate Tyler Hamilton -- that Lance Armstrong, like all his fellow cyclists, used performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong used these substances (growth hormones et al.) big time -- just like all those professional baseball and football players did (past tense used advisedly).
Now why would a great athlete want to rely on major infusions of drugs?
Since that question answers itself, let's think about two other questions -- How do we deal with this? and Why won't Lance Armstrong help us make sense out of it?
As to the last question, here was Armstrong's Twitter response to his teammate's claims (and Hamilton wasn't "accusing" Armstrong of anything -- Hamilton said that all big-time cyclists used the substances):
Hmmm - sounds like a non-denial denial -- just like major league baseball heroes who either retired, refused to respond, or lied about their steroid use. Like Hall of Famers Barry Bonds (762 lifetime home runs), Mark McGwire (583 homers), Roger Clemens (354 victories), and Rafael Palmeiro (569 homers) -- to name a few.
Athletes go into (or avoid) Congressional hearings et al. wearing white or black hats. Bonds (who avoided them) and Jose Canseco were bad guys. McGwire (until he likewise avoided them), Palmeiro, and Clemens were good guys -- the Republican Congresspeople fell all over themselves kissing Clemens' butt. And seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong is an American hero (watch the comments to this post). But the major distinction in sports seemingly is not between those who used and those who didn't, but those who admitted it and those who lied.
The answer to the question of why athletes don't own up to their use is as obvious as the answer to the question of why they use, isn't it?
They use to excel and to stay on top; they lie about it because it's illegal, they'll suffer repercussions, and the media, fans, and maybe even Congress will turn on them.
What do we call it when the most important and successful people working in an area of great concern to us do something while they all deny doing it, because society disapproves? No -- I'm not talking about politicians and non-marital sex. Well, wait a sec, now that I mention it!
Okay -- let's turn to the milion-dollar (or does inflation make that the billion-dollar) question -- how will we as a society deal with this going forward? Yes, how will we acknowledge that the most successful people do things to help them get to where they are -- and virtually everyone knows about it -- but we don't want other people -- particularly young people -- doing these things? That can be a tough sell.
No, the answer can't be -- "Get all the famous people to stop doing these things." We've tried that for a few centuries, and it seemingly becomes a less successful strategy with each passing generation.
Okay, we can try to cover up and lie about it -- or how else would "60 Minutes" continue to get programming? Remember Roger Clemens' performance adamantly denying he used steroids -- for which he has since been charged with perjury ? (Also, don't forget Clemens' years' long affair -- like Arnold Schwarzenegger's -- beginning when the girl was a young teen -- in his case with country musician Mindy McCready.)
We ignore, deny, and disapprove of use of these substances based on the logic that, this way, we'll discourage the most people from doing these things, even as we are always shocked by how many people continue to do them (think about illicit drugs and sex here), including not infrequently those who achieve the most success. (Now don't misread that as "achieve the most sex" because of, say, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton.)
Could there be a better approach? Just thought I'd ask.