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Lance Armstrong Case Shows Lying Pays

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I know Lance Armstrong may seem a bit off topic, but bear with me, this is actually a post about propaganda.

There is a dead serious comment (UK speak for op ed) at the Guardian about what a sap Lance Armstrong was for ‘fessing up to using performance-enhancing drugs while competing in the Tour de France. Key sections of the article:

Lance Armstrong’s doping admission to Oprah was a public relations nightmare in the making. While we can all agree that Lance would have been better-off not cheating at all (or at least confessing sooner), it’s fairly clear that once he cheated and lied, he probably should have kept lying if he wanted to maintain his public standing.

Yes, Lance’s favorability took a hit with the American public in the past year, but – even after the Usada report revelations in October 2012 – this drop in public approval was stabilizing prior to Oprah. His net favorable rating (+favorable minus –unfavorable) dropped 75pt, as doping rumors became louder and louder, from +76pt, in 2005, to +1pt, in October 2012.

Yet, by early January 2013, only 37% of American sports fans believed he should not get credit for his career accomplishments – including his seven Tour de France victories (sic). This compares with October 2012, when 49% thought Armstrong should give his medals back…

Whatever Armstrong’s strategic goal – to return to competition or just to begin a process of rehabilitation that makes him less toxic as a public figure – the trade-off would only be worth it if Armstrong’s favorability could recover. But this stain on his favorability is likely permanent: 63% of Americans say it’s unlikely Armstrong will be able to restore his reputation.

The decline in popularity is undeniable. It may be permanent, but humans are notably poor at predicting future emotional states accurately.

But the more important thing about this article is the lack of reflection on this phenomenon. This is a manifestation of halo effect, which is where people tend to see people as all good or all bad based on the attributes they notice. That’s why pretty people are assumed to be smarter than not-pretty people (trust me, lots of studies on this). Now that Armstrong admitted he did something bad, he’s all bad. No credit for being willing to confess and endure the consequences, no credit for the good his foundation has done.

And of course, the Armstrong reaction explains completely why we have CEOs tell egregious lie after egregious lie and they get away with it. I’m waiting to see some fixture at a right wing think tank argue that SEC disclosure is a bad thing because the fact that executives are supposed to (according to all good free markets types) care only about maximizing shareholder value and lying more would help boost stock prices. If telling a big lie is better than being truthful, then telling big lies all the time should be seen as being desirable. And we seem to be well along that path even before we have articles extolling that strategy.

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77 comments

  1. Stephanie

    As a society, we are notoriously bereft of compassion, and dismiss the idea of redemption. You can’t have ‘fessing up’ without the promise of redemption somewhere down the line. We also figure that ‘evil’ is an actual trait and that people are or aren’t. We’re so black and white about these things.

    As a parent, I’ve also been made to feel that shame is an inappropriate emotion to use in the education of a child. However, I think it’s important for my kids to know that everyone screws up, that it doesn’t define who you are, and that you can move past these things, drawing on the mistake to help define future actions. I, personally, think ‘shame’ is a valuable social tool, and one that can really help modify behavior. Unfortunately, as a society, we’ve taken it out of the toolbox.

    1. Susan the other

      Shame really shouldn’t have become a monster than cannot be redeemed. Shame is just embarrassment. Usually because you didn’t think far enough ahead or you underestimated how smart the people observing you were. So shame should be a cause for getting together and drinking beer. I’m buying. As far as Lance goes (loved Yves preface that a dead serious comment is UK speak for an op ed), I will always really like the guy. I’m sure it’s true that every cyclist doped. Not just Lance. But nevermind reality. Propaganda is a paranoid (aka cowardly) solution whose mantra is to always lie. Because the truth is simply dangerous. So maybe Lance is as smart as he is fit. He dares to go against the paranoia. Cool.

    2. Min

      There are shame cultures and guilt cultures. Japan and Egypt are shame cultures. We have a guilt culture.

      AFAICT, neither shame nor guilt motivates Armstrong.

    3. Richard Kline

      Some of us place no special value on ‘redemption.’ Redemption is all about sin; sin allows forgiveness, and thus grossly (and in accurately) empowers the forgivers. Redemption is, largely, crap, in my view.

      Lance Armstrong can go on to have a good life and be a good person. I’m not placing any bet on the latter because, to be frank, he’s a rotten person to his core. Thus, he not only has a lot of personal learning to do to change, but a lot of personal growth to do to get to being a good person. Since he, on present evidence, has no personal motivation to be a good person, I don’t see it happening. —But what Lance does about himself is his affair, and really doesn’t concern me, or you, or us. I don’t have to ‘forgive’ for him to learn to be a better person. It doesn’t matter if I ‘forgive’ for him to grow; he can do it without my permission, sanction, or endorsement. I and my views are not relevant really to his change, beyond pressure for him to get real and see change as valuable and in his personal interest.

      People like to be lied to; that’s a sad fact. That is the number one fact about the PED era. To many people want the lie. To many people think their personal endorsement ‘matters.’ It doesn’t. Our actions matter, but our belief in another is a very malleable and fungible quality.

      I find the perspective advanced in that op-ed thoroughly contemptible. As if Armstrong’s ‘approval rating’ mattered in any ethical sense. In the marketing sense, it matters a great deal, which tells us exactly how excremental marketing really is on the scale of Things Which Matter. A book needs to be written on this all, but I’ve got a bus to catch . . . .

  2. Inverness (@Inverness)

    The big issue is that an Armstrong couldn’t have gotten anywhere without a system that rewarded, and eventually expected doping. He found well-paid doctors to support his habit, and monitors who could be fooled, or looked the other way? Well, I’ll bet Bill Black would find a lot of parallels with that one.

    The Guardian is wrong to suggest that “While we can all agree that Lance would have been better-off not cheating at all.” This is what was going on among the top cyclists, and the banks weren’t so different. Once different financial institutions start fudging the numbers, everyone becomes part of game, because it’s “your duty to the stockholders.” It’s not just one bad seed — now, it’s systemic.

    1. Jack Bray

      In my opinion (both as a recreational cyclist and money policy skeptic) you have hit the nail on the head. Bending (or outright breaking) the rules has become systemic because “everyone else does it”.

  3. ep3

    What I think this shows Yves is how we blindly think that ppl like Lance, and Reggie Bush, and Manti Teo, and that coach at Ohio State: Tressel, and on and on, they are so perfect when they are winning and then magically we forget our previous worship as it’s discovered they cheated. Better yet, they didn’t “cheat” but we discover they are “imperfect”. They are human. I think that’s what’s F”d up about our society. We think coach/reverend/pastor/mayor/president are perfect and never do wrong. WHich leads us to NOT question anything they do. WHich leads these people to push boundaries, building themselves up to superhuman. And what gets me is we never directly catch them for their crimes; we prosecute around the margins or on technicalities. WHich results in these men still retaining their royalty status, only knocked down a rung, but still far above us commoners.
    good post yves, tho too short.

  4. Garrett Pace

    “no credit for the good his foundation has done.”

    Well, in furtherance of the paradigm you are describing, the main goal of charitable foundations is positive publicity and brand enhancement. In Armstrong’s case that seems to be true – even as the foundation did some good things, “awareness” was the main goal, and the awareness campaign personally benefited Armstrong a great deal:

    http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/athletes/lance-armstrong/Its-Not-About-the-Lab-Rats.html

    1. ohmyheck

      Those “Livestrong” bracelets? I just saw one online for sale that said “Cheat To Win”. Humans do love their sarcasm…

  5. ekcc

    the anti-moral of the story is if you’re going to lie, cheat, steal–lie, cheat, steal big or go home.

    whether it’s Armstrong, Paterno, the banks, Moody’s, TEPCO, Barry Bonds, the “shame” that society puts of the wrong-doers is a pittance when compared to the self-enrichment possible from your acts.

    Until people actually start going to jail, like the “good ole days,” such behavior will only continue.

  6. Wat Tyler

    Had Armstrong not used drugs and doping we would never had heard of him and his foundation would not exist. He is still the greatest cyclist of his time and his accomplishmets are still valid on a relative basis. “Everyone is doing it” ,as our Mothers told us, is not an excuse but ,in Armstrong’s case, was correct.

    Jim

    1. Stephen Nightingale

      Wat Tyler: “He is still the greatest cyclist of his time and his accomplishments are still valid on a relative basis.”

      Well, no, you mean he was the greatest cyclist _of the dopers_. The playing field was never level, and had it been the non-dopers would have been competitive – indeed, would have competed for longer had they not been forced out by their sponsors’ requirements to get results and show the jersey. Sadly, we will never know who they all were, so we can’t even make accurate relativistic statements about his performances.

      But personally I really want to know about Amgen’s culpability in cycling’s lost 2 decades.

      1. KFritz

        “Best of the dopers” = “Best of the cyclists.”

        According to the son of a friend who was briefly a professional cyclist, doping is very close to universal in the sport. In a way, Armstrong faced a dilemna–do I want to compete in a universally corrupt, but fabulously wealthy sport which will make me rich and famous beyond my wildest imaginings, or do I choose something much cleaner, like the various “iron men” events and make a modest living? Not many of us are presented with such dramatic dilemmas.

        1. KFritz

          Just to clarify, the playing field may not have been completely level, but with everyone doping, it was closer to level than not.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        My trainer coaches and rehabs professional athletes and Olympic competitors. It’s widely known that doping is rampant in other areas too. Baseball and track and field are biggies. It’s almost an arms race, with the trainers on the lookout for supplements and substances that won’t be caught in blood and urine tests.

        1. Robert Dudek

          This is extremely risky for any Olympic sport. Substances are presumed to be illegal unless they are explicitly allowed. Additionally, an athlete can suffer sanctions reactively if a substance is detected by way of a future method of detection.

      3. Jack Bray

        Very good points. Personally, I suspect Greg LeMond may have been the last truly “clean” TdF winner. Another professional American cyclist widely regarded as “clean”, Andy Hampsten, was quoted during an interview before he retired in 1995, in response to doping questions…..”I am turning in personal best times in the same stages of the same races and finishing further and further back. You tell me what it means”. Bless his heart.

        1. robert157

          I personally think it’s naive to think that Lemond (or Hampsten and the rest of the great Americans of the era) didn’t benefit from the blood doping strategies that Eddy B brought to US bike racers in the early 1980s. Eddy B was Greg’s coach when he won the world junior pursuit title. The olympic cycling team of 1984 used blood transfusions. It’s quite possible that Lemond, if he never used ‘blood packing,’ was injected with EPO and told it was something else (e.g. a “vitamin injection”) — as young cyclists on the national team were at the time. Conjecture, but educated conjecture.

    2. Thor's Hammer

      “Jamie Dimon is the greatest bankster of his generation, and if he hadn’t wagered hundreds of billions of dollars of interest free taxpayer guaranteed money in the derivatives casino nobody would have heard of him and his bonuses would not exist.”

      President Obama change the American policy of covert warfare from one of rendition and torture to one of assassination by remote controlled drones, thus eliminating the inconvenient intermediate steps of torture and confession.

      Its call situational morality.

    3. Yalt

      “Everyone’s doing it” may apply to the doping itself; it doesn’t apply to Armstrong’s treatment of those who spoke the truth about him: the defamation campaigns, the defamation lawsuits, the perjury committed in the pursuit of those lawsuits, the use of his power in the of sport to try to destroy the careers and lives of anyone that had the gall to point out that Armstrong(like many others) was doping.

      All of that was quite unique. In sport, anyway. His misfortune, I suppose, is that the man was a stellar bicyclist and not an investment banker. He’d still be on top of the world, as the latter….

  7. Steve

    It strikes me that Armstrong, following many lies and repeated denial of lying, realized his brand was so tarnished it would permanently affect future earnings. The last go-around before the tell-all appearance, would have been a chance for him to, no pun intended, come clean and regain some modicum of public trust as the flawed hero etc. He did not do so when it was perfectly obvious to everyone he had to have doped. When the results of that recent gambit failed, when the press just got too negative, he goes on Oprah. Notice he did not do an interview with an informed sports journalist who might have pinned him down potentially on other uncomfortable revelations that only someone really familiar with the sport could have teased out. No, with salvage PR his main goal, he does the minimum, really, to have any chance at partial redemption. Not be be all black or white about this, but whatever was left to admire in him is in deservedly in tatters.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Concerning that, its not just the doping that hurts Armstrong’s image. Armstrong is a thug. He wrecked people. Its one thing to beat the other cheaters, but he viciously attacked journalists and his employees and their families. I suspect once the initial attraction wore off she picked up on what he was.

      1. Mark P.

        “Armstrong is a thug. He wrecked people. Its one thing to beat the other cheaters, but he viciously attacked journalists and his employees and their families.”

        Maybe. And yet he’s more complicated that merely that and your kneejerk attack illustrates exactly the ‘lack of reflection’ and the demand for black-and-white simplification that Yves talks about. Because see here –

        http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/01/21/benjamin-markovits/in-defence-of-lance-armstrong/

        ‘I’ve got personal reasons for liking him: he comes from my hometown, and in 2006 may have helped to save my brother-in-law’s life. Asher Price, who works for the local Austin paper, the American Statesman, got the same kind of cancer that Armstrong had. On the day his testicle was removed, he got an email from the cyclist, which offered not only the usual sympathy but a recommendation: he should see Lawrence Einhorn in Indiana, the doctor who pioneered the treatment that saved Armstrong.

        ‘Asher called Einhorn’s clinic, but couldn’t get an appointment for six weeks. So he emailed Armstrong, asking for advice. Armstrong responded within the hour: he’d contacted Einhorn’s office and there shouldn’t be any problem. The clinic saw Asher the following week, and he’s been clear of cancer for six years.’

        The whole (short) piece is worth reading.

        1. jsmith

          What a perfect example of the pathetic wishy-washy nonsense that the elite have utilized to prey upon the masses for nearly a half-century now.

          I guess since Obama pardoned that turkey on T-day, he’s not a war-criminal, right?

          Don’t be kneejerk, huh?

          Fool.

          You know what?

          Maybe if Americans utilized a little MORE black-and-white thinking we wouldn’t have so many seemingly “complex” and “nuanced” problems that we just can’t ever seem to solve, huh?

          Maybe then we wouldn’t buy into the horsesh!t propagandistic narratives of how the elite are – oops, sorry – just human beings who are – sniffle – doing just the best that they can – tear – but who are still prone to an little boo-boo now and then, right?

          Y’know, like committing war crimes, stealing trillions of dollars of people’s wealth, shredding the country’s social contract, etc etc.

          No, let’s all just continue to see “50 Shades of Gray” – wink – when viewing yet another elite/celebrity puppet start their non-apology apology tour which entirely banks upon the limitless gullibility and naivete of the brainwashed American masses.

          Awh, he’s not such a terrible cheater/murderer/thief after all!!

          Why, he reminds me of ME!!

          Here’s a clue: in a society in which ruthless amoral sociopaths inhabit the top echelons, the huddled masses are conditioned through propaganda to want to be like said sociopaths – ruthless, amoral, self-centered, greedy etc – so when you begin to feel the faintest pangs of sympathy/empathy for a “fallen” sociopath, realize that you are being played like the thoughtless mannequin the elite count on you being.

        2. Min

          ‘Asher called Einhorn’s clinic, but couldn’t get an appointment for six weeks. So he emailed Armstrong, asking for advice. Armstrong responded within the hour: he’d contacted Einhorn’s office and there shouldn’t be any problem. The clinic saw Asher the following week, and he’s been clear of cancer for six years.’

          It is good that Asher is cancer free. :) But we should praise Armstrong for getting him preferential treatment?????

          1. Procopius

            Makes one wonder what happened to the person(s) who got their appointments cancelled so Asher could get preferential treatment.

        3. NotTimothyGeithner

          Yes, I know Lance is rich and therefore must be good or some nonsense. I bet he stops at crosswalks too, and I bet he doesn’t use curse words but says “daggnabut” or “doodle” and “lady parts” instead of naughty words.

  8. Garrett Pace

    There is a tremendous gap between the fantasy of “athletic virtue” and the ugly reality of competition.

    It turns top competitors into terrible hypocrites, as they all chase the money and prestige and realize that they can either be an honest loser or a famous phony.

    It doesn’t corrupt everyone, of course: many choose the first option; unfortunately we never get to hear about them because Americans love winners, not losers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9b5g1avyCSA&t=1m12s

  9. Butch in Waukegan

    “You can’t keep blaming yourself. Just blame yourself once, and move on.” — Homer Simpson

  10. dman

    The parallels with the financial world are correct. What everyone is missing is that, if the analogy is valid, he was brought to justice. Find out how and why that happened – Travis Tygard USADA – and problem solved in finance.

    PS – there was a federal criminal case against Lance dropped late on a Friday night. Rumors of a Clinton intervention….

  11. Stephen Nightingale

    Yves Smith: “Now that Armstrong admitted he did something bad, he’s all bad. No credit for being willing to confess and endure the consequences, no credit for the good his foundation has done.”

    Yves,

    Nixon was vilified for a long time until recent years when his domestic record was re-appraised, and it was noted that he signed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, created the OMB, and did a fair few other substantively good things for the nation.

    Lance Armstrong is every bit as cynical and sinister a character as Nixon was. It is quite clear he is angling for the contrition vote – thought to be in the gift only of ‘weak-kneed liberals’. Why not let’s let him be the unalloyed villain for a decade or two. I’m sure he’ll come back when he’s tan, rested and ready.

  12. Steve

    We live in a society in which sociopaths–that is, people who have a limited or non-existent conscience–have a distinct advantage. We are essentially a commercial culture, with everything that implies. Money rules.

  13. JW

    Good picture of the mentalities:

    An action-packed thriller is about to unfold in Davos, Switzerland [http://www.other-news.info/2013/01/an-action-packed-thriller-is-about-to-unfold-in-davos-switzerland/#more-6364]:

    “But away from the gluhwein and the gabfest, the real action is slowly revealed. The businessmen summon prime ministers and presidents to secret meetings in tiny rooms, where they order the lives of the billions consigned to the plains below – and so make themselves even richer. The title for this not-so-thriller? Well, I rather fancy Plutocrats’ Paradise.”
    —-
    Yep, its the “businessmen”–more precisely, the money men–who really call the shots. Above all, they buy the government. Are we not being swallowed by Wall St.? In such a world, in such a pseudo-culture, there are no real ideals and principles, no real depth. It is all as shallow as can be, and therefore terribly destructive of all that is truly good. Image, appearance, sales, advertising, hypocrisy, ruthlessness, gain at all costs–these are all inevitable in such a world. Such a world is inherently unstable and deceitful.

  14. bmeisen

    He didn’t do Oprah with a deathwish. Don’t forget his powerful friends and well-paid advisors, and take him at his word when he calls himself “a competitor”. He’s coming down off Alpe d’Huez, getting close to 100 kph on his 6 kg bike thinking “Last time I touched the brakes 3 times – this time it’ll be 2.” I think it’s an all-in moment: Burn up bright on Oprah, get some sympathy points, lose a bunch of claw back cases, until I’m back to where I started – and then write a bestseller that hauls in millions.

    1. SayWhat?

      I think you nailed it. The Oprah interviews were classic in the mold of Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” Not an ounce of contrition, just pure chutzpah and fatalism at finally being forced to admit what everyone already knew anyway. Whatever else he is, he’s a classic!

    2. gillyrosh

      It was kind of stunning (but not really) how little remorse he showed in the interview. I was surprised to hear some of his former teammates say he looked contrite. I think cowed is the better word – and even then, only temporarily.

  15. The Dork of Cork.

    Olafur Ragnar Grimsson

    ” the eurozone has revealed itself to be a different type of animal”

    FUCKING A

    He the Man.

  16. GeorgeK

    (Nixon)…Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, created the OMB.

    …”In 1972, he (Nixon) vetoed the Clean Water Act, which he generally supported, because Congress had boosted its cost to $18 billion. When Congress overrode his veto, he used his presidential powers to impound half of the money.”…

    Maybe Lance can get the same people to rewite his history.

    1. SayWhat?

      The real loser in the whole fiasco was professional cycling, which was revealed to have had to been completely corrupted at the highest levels for this charade to have continued for so many years, while everyone but Lance was brought down during the same period. And why not? LA was nothing less than an historical cash cow. I would imagine that was a large part of the smirk LA was wearing as he did the interviews, knowing full well the number of people in high places who were sweating bullets at what he might have revealed, but of course, didn’t – for a price. That would have been the real story in my opinion, although we all know it will never come out now, absent someone’s drastic miscalculation.

      So in the end, LA gave up a little but retained a whole lot more, and in time, the reputation will be repaired just fine anyway. We’re a nation of liars and crooks these days, and LA was just a bigger and better deal than the rest of us. And if he had to rape and pillage a sissified little European crap sport like cycling to make his nut, well what’s the harm in that anyway? It’s all good as long as someone got rich and not too many people got hurt in the process.

  17. jurisV

    “Style over Substance” is what Stephen Covey (In his “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” book in 1990) called the slide since WWII into the PR, Propaganda, and the B cubed equation driven culture that we see all around us now.

    It didn’t begin with Lance Armstrong nor is it confined to the Financial Industry; nor is everyone afflicted by it 100%. However, I do think that it has grown dramatically since I first had an inkling of it over 40 years ago — and I called it “decadence.” Now I consider it a function of the development of PR/propaganda techniques in early 20th Century combined with the cult of “positive thinking” — something Yves has written about.

    Whatever you call it, it seems to be insidious and extremely toxic.

    The big question is: How does an individual and a society stop this slide? Is it even possible to stop/reverse it? Or does it require a catastrophe as a catalyst?

    Or maybe I have been just totally warped & depressed after watching the PBS Frontline documentary “The Untouchables” last night!!

    1. jurisV

      I just saw JW’s comment (above at 3:39PM)!

      And I have to say that his last paragraph much more elegantly stated what I think I was stumbling around trying to say. Nicely put JW !

  18. steelhead23

    Actually, I find Armstrong a perfect metaphor for American culture. Life is all about winning. Ethics are situational and consequential. If Lance weren’t a great athlete, his personality would place him on the A-list of achievers in another field. In the end, I suspect that Lance’s decision to come clean had at least a little to do with his legacy and his foundation. I think he sees Livestrong as a beautiful child – and now he has set it free. BTW – do they even teach ethics at business schools?

  19. Lambert Strether

    There’s a lot more to propaganda than lying. James Thurber*

    Not so very long ago there was a very fine gander. He was strong and smooth and beautiful and he spent most of his time singing to his wife and children. One day somebody who saw him strutting up and down in his yard and singing remarked, “There is a very proper gander.” An old hen overheard this and told her husband about it that night in the roost. “They said something about propaganda,” she said. “I have always suspected that,” said the rooster, and he went around the barnyard next day telling everybody that the very fine gander was a dangerous bird, more than likely a hawk in gander’s clothing. A small brown hen remembered a time when at a great distance she had seen the gander talking with some hawks in the forest. “They were up to no good,” she said. A duck remembered that the gander had once told him he did not believe in anything. “He said to hell with the flag, too,” said the duck. A guinea hen recalled that she had once seen somebody who looked very much like the gander throw something that looked a great deal like a bomb. Finally everybody snatched up sticks and stones and descended on the gander’s house. He was strutting in his front yard, singing to his children and his wife. “There he is!” everybody cried. “Hawk-lover! Unbeliever! Flag-hater! Bomb-thrower!” So they set upon him and drove him out of the country.

    Moral: Anybody who you or your wife thinks is going to overthrow the government by violence must be driven out of the country.

    NOTE * Back when The New Yorker was The New Yorker and the Talk of The Town was The Talk of The Town, instead a cesspit of smug Obama hagiographers:

    1. Klassy!

      Great fable!
      You’re right about the cesspit. Hendrik Herzberg. Why?
      Plus, there’s the “food issue”, 15 page articles about a marathoner that faked his times, and the continual employment of shills such as Gladwell and Jerome Groopman.
      and did I mention Hendrik Hertzberg?

  20. JEHR

    The following is from http://www.goldmansachs666.com/2012/10/goldman-sachs-and-cycling-have-few.html

    Goldman Sachs and Cycling Have a Few Things in Common
    Cheating is a corruption, whether in an institution or by an individual, and corruption is all about winning at any cost whether it be in business, in banking, in sports or in government.

    Lance Armstrong as a professional cyclist and Lloyd Blankfein as a professional banker share a lot of common characteristics:

    Both Lance and Lloyd used illegal, immoral and unethical practices to amass large amounts of money and prestige;

    Both had strong professional incentives to cheat because the rewards were worth the risk both in money and influence;

    Both were affected by moral hazard: “Moral hazard arises because an individual or institution does not take the full consequences and responsibilities of its actions, and therefore has a tendency to act less carefully than it otherwise would, leaving another party to hold some responsibility for the consequences of those actions.”

    Both were prestigious leaders, one in sports the other in banking, and both lost face when found out but neither one apologized or admitted any wrong doing in spite of causing great losses to others;

    Both became very rich directly through their cheating;

    Both were assisted in their cheating by enablers; the one by doctors, teammates and testers who looked the other way and the other by deregulation, by weak regulators and captured politicians;

    Both used “exotic instruments” with which to cheat: one with the use of EPO, Testosterone, HGH, Corticosteroids and saline, plasma and blood tranfusions; the other with CDOs, CDS, HFT and derivatives;

    Not only did they both cheat the system, they cheated their teams, their profession, their clients and their country;

    Both have extensive reports describing in detail their cheating behavior: Armstrong in a USADA report and Blankfein in the FCIC Report and the Levin/Coburn Report;

    Both have sued others and were themselves sued for their unethical and illegal behavior;

    Both have put their respective professions at great risk of being considered failures;

    Lance will probably enjoy future obscurity and we can only hope that Blankfein will too.

    There seems to be a pervasive atmosphere around us of winner take all no matter what the costs to others. There has been no demand that either one admit his wrongdoing; their sophisticated cheating corrupts absolutely and has gradually become acceptable and even receives accolades without any jail time whether in sport, in banking, in business or in government.

  21. Hugh

    Lance Armstrong should have been a banker. No need to dope and just as many muppets to bamboozle. Indeed he would have been praised for his lie and cheating and held up as a role model, not despite them, but because of them.

    I read, I don’t know how dependable it is, that Armstrong made a fortune of $125 million from his cons. That fortune was amassed serving no useful social purpose and represents resources that could have gone to create jobs or improve your kids’ schools. Lance Armstrong is very much a member of the 1%. Why should we be surprised that he has their morals?

  22. Paul Tioxon

    Weapons of mass destruction, Weapons of mass destruction, phone call for weapons of mass destruction???

    Will someone please pick up the call for weapons of mass destruction!!!

  23. Michael Hoexter

    Yves,
    Another name for the “all good/all bad” phenomenon is “splitting” which is a feature of childhood and adult thinking. For instance, the characters in fairy tales are almost entirely all good or all bad or at least that is what drives the plot. Under stress and in conflict with other people, adults are prone to use it as well and it is ubiquitous in politics, as one side attempts to portray the other side as “all bad” while they are “all good”.

  24. roger

    “I’m waiting to see some fixture at a right wing think tank argue that SEC disclosure is a bad thing because the fact that executives are supposed to (according to all good free markets types) care only about maximizing shareholder value and lying more would help boost stock prices.”

    For Pete’s sake, Yves. Is I really your implication that liberals don’t lie?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      If you read this site with any regularity, you can see we bash the soi disant left far more than the right.

  25. Tim Mason

    The writer of the piece you quote is an American, a poll wonk. Just saying. In another Guardian piece, Nicole Cooke, retiring from professional cycling after her Olympic triumph, has a word or two to say about Armstrong, among other sporting matters. Worth a read if you want to play the ‘they all do it” card.

  26. Jeff N

    “I’m waiting to see some fixture at a right wing think tank argue that SEC disclosure is a bad thing”

    they *want* to say it, but they know they can’t. :)

  27. George

    This is also a cultural effect. Performance enhancement is growing and practically unencumbered by the the anti-doping authorities – whoever they may be. It is also broadening to cognitive fields. Not only will can you not determine which sports hero is doping but you may not be able to figure out if your physician or attorney used “cognitive enhancers” to make it through professional school.

    http://real-psychiatry.blogspot.com/2013/01/anything-worth-winning-is-worth.html

    1. H. Alexander Ivey

      “But the more important thing about this article is the lack of reflection on this phenomenon. This is a manifestation of halo effect, which is where people tend to see people as all good or all bad based on the attributes they notice.”

      What I got from the article was its tone. It sounded just like the 1950s Samuelson economic pieces. Full of numbers, slyly negative adjectives and adverbs, and glibly stated assumptions, all of which is strictly BS. The speaker sounds important, the subject is only discussed in terms of the speaker, and the “model” the speaker uses is entirely divorced from reality. Furthermore, the model here is static, not dynamic, so it is likely to be wrong, even on its terms of numbers. Who knows what the numbers for or against Lance will be 3, 6, or 12 months from now.
      The important considerations, those things that could be changed or should be fully acknowledged, are carefully ignored or clearly stated to be irrelevant. So I agree with Yves that the piece is propaganda, but I don’t think it is the halo affect. I think it is the Samuelson affect, a bully pumping himself up by offering a BS argument on a popular/current affair.

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