Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

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Lance Armstrong vs Richard Nixon

News reports indicate that Lance Armstrong will admit to doping when he is interviewed this week by the media impresario and TV personality Oprah Winfrey.   In a number of earlier posts I have laid out the pros and cons of the Lance doping case, his motivation to dope,  stonewall and then stop contesting doping allegations, and the idea he might be seeking a “second act.  In addition to looking for some sort of return to the limelight there is at least some speculation that Lance is worried about criminal charges if he admits to too much.

All of this makes me think about Richard Nixon, who resigned the Presidency in the wake of the Watergate scandal, and a series of interviews he did with David Frost a few years after he resigned.   Nixon and Armstrong both grew up under tough circumstances.  They were both self-made, tenacious, incredibly resilient, and devoted practitioners of hard-ball tactics.   Lance “won” the Tour de France 7 times; Nixon is the only man to be on the National ticket of a major political party and run for President or Vice President five times.   Frost was an all-around media operator and society high flyer before Oprah took these labels to a new level.

That having been said, Nixon fundamentally never saw Watergate as more than a political problem vs. a series of criminal acts.   The clip below shows this pretty clearly.  Will Oprah be able to get a similar admission out of Lance?   Nixon saw Watergate as political gamesmanship that needed to be contained.   Will Lance tell Oprah that he saw allegations and denials concerning his well-organized doping program as athletic gamesmanship that needed to be contained vs. a vast and corrupt criminal conspiracy that did all sorts of damage to all sorts of people?

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click here  for video


In the next clip Nixon says:

 “I don’t go with the idea that there … that what brought me down was a coup, a conspiracy etc. I brought myself down. I gave them a sword, and they stuck it in and they twisted it with relish. And I guess if I had been in their position, I’d have done the same thing.”


click here for video

Nixon, for all his faults, understood that in the end he was a victim of his relentless and even obsessive use of hard ball tactics.  Will Lance ever understand this?  Additionally, at least until now, Lance clearly has not grasped the central lesson of Richard Nixon’s life……..that a cover up is always worse than whatever led to it.

Richard Nixon can be seen as tragic giant.  If Lance is lucky he will avoid prison, retain some of his fortune, and re-emerge as a less than first rate celebrity.


2 Responses to “Lance Armstrong vs Richard Nixon”

  1. January 21st, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Jay Turberville says:

    I believe that the attacks Lance made on individuals in defense of his lies will make a public rehabilitation difficult. I think most people can empathize with how you’d cheat in a sport where cheating was rampant. I think most people cab empathize with the need to lie to hide the cheating. But I don’t think many will be able to empathize and hence forgive going to the lengths of ruining the careers of others in order to protect himself and his schemes. I think overcoming that will be very difficult.

  2. January 21st, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Michael Joyner, M.D. says:

    Jay, I believe you have highlighted the consensus that is emerging on this topic from a broad based group of people. Mike

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