The New York Times reports that Lance Armstrong is considering confessing to doping in order to resume his athletic career:
Lance Armstrong, who this fall was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping and barred for life from competing in all Olympic sports, has told associates and antidoping officials that he is considering publicly admitting that he used banned performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions during his cycling career, according to several people with direct knowledge of the situation. He would do this, the people said, because he wants to persuade antidoping officials to restore his eligibility so he can resume his athletic career.
As I explained in this Philosophy in Action Radio discussion of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, the government has no business banning performance-enhancing drugs. Moreover, the case for a ban in in private sports leagues is remarkably weak. That’s here:
- Duration: 27:28
- Download: MP3 Segment
Alas, the problem for Armstrong is that his years of vehement denials of using performance-enhancing drugs, if admitted to be false, would embroil him in major legal troubles. The concern is not merely unjust prosecution by the government. His contracts with sponsors depended on his not using performance-enhancing drugs, and as the the article explains, some sponsors are seeking to recoup millions. Moreover — and this is what I find so morally distasteful — he might have ill-gotten gains from libel lawsuits too:
Armstrong is also facing two other civil lawsuits, one that involves the Dallas-based insurance company SCA Promotions, which is trying to recoup at least $5 million it covered when Armstrong won multiple Tours.
The company withheld that $5 million bonus from Armstrong after he won the 2004 Tour because of doping accusations that surfaced in the book “L.A. Confidentiel: Les Secrets de Lance Armstrong,” which was published in France. Armstrong sued the company, and the case was settled for $7.5 million.
Armstrong is also being sued by the British newspaper The Sunday Times over the settlement of a libel case in which the newspaper paid Armstrong nearly $500,000.
I don’t fault Armstrong for doping, nor for lying about that to a quasi-governmental agency. However, if he sued people for millions for telling the truth about his doping… well, that’s remarkably sleazy. Even if he felt backed into a corner, that’s no excuse for abusing the law in order to intimidate people into silence.
When faced with such difficult circumstances, the moral person changes course: he admits what he did openly, he defends himself by explaining his reasons, and he advocates for changes in the law. He does not sacrifice others by violating their rights. To do that means sliding rapidly down a very dangerous and degrading slippery slope. That slippery slope doesn’t just destroy a person’s character, but also undermines any capacity of mine to admire his achievements.
I really, really, really hope that that’s not what we’re seeing from Lance Armstrong now.