Lance Armstrong appears to by lying. How can this happen? We don’t usually think of an athlete using a drug to boost performance like a drug addict or drug abuser. Consider this. They lie about it for fear of the consequences. There can be denial as well. A fantasy world as well. Shame which makes it impossible to share the truth. A trap in which the person is stuck. Physical consequences that are a result of using the drug.
Just like the spouse who was supporting addiction unintentionally by looking the other way, we have an organization in the case of Lance Armstrong. Any addict may look at it this way. If the lie be told, that is what will cause the harm. But maybe the taking of the drug in the first place is what causes harm…or the lying. Most spouses I have worked with tell me the lying is one of the hardest things, not necessarily the using.
No doubt Lance Armstrong brought about a lot of good. He helped and inspired many had had cancer. His livestrong bracelet created a whole series of other colors supporting other health causes. Many people who struggle with addiction use the good causes to avoid thinking about it dealing with the problems they have with the substance they have used. It helps them stay in denial. Denial is a strong mechanism. Until the situation becomes safer for the person to face reality or sometimes a person is blown out of denial through confrontation, but this is rare. Most of the time if someone is to come out of denial it is when they can let the defenses down. Denial becomes stronger when there are three components. The greater the shame of the behavior, the stronger the attacked and the greater the consequences is what seems to fuel denial.
What will happen next has yet to be seen. Perhaps, Lance will confess that he got caught in the trap. Good can come out of all this. How many of us has never lied? How many of us has lied to save face? The challenge is how could Lance have felt the great winning 7 victories in the Tour de France? Was it that he felt, “everyone else does it (doping) so he won an even race?” Perhaps he is innocent and the people at the lab had an ax to grind. Someone had to have gone in an messed with his lab results over the years. Someone had to predict that there would be a test that would come out later that would measure EPO, sneak into the lab and mess with the results to that Lance would loses the medals only in hindsight. It didn’t stop him from winning them at the time. It is a stretch to believe this.
Like an addictive family, I believe that the system is bigger than the individuals. This is more than just about Lance Armstrong. Many have come forward and confessed that they used drugs to enhance athletic performance. These confessions are the beginning of wellness for the whole profession and organization.
Erik Bohlin, M.A.