Lessons from Lance Armstrong’s Lies

Part-1 of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah that aired yesterday provides rare and valuable insight into the way many highly accomplished but self-centered leaders think and operate.

Full-length videos of the interview aren’t officially released and aren’t staying online long, but if the one here still works or you are able to locate it you may find the 22:00-25:00 section enlightening.

Oprah: “Were you a bully?”

Answer: “Uh, yeah, yeah, I was a bully. … I tried to control the narrative, and if I didn’t like what somebody said … I tried to control that and say that’s a lie, they’re liars.” …

Oprah: “Is that your nature when somebody says something that you don’t like, you go on the attack?”

Lance: “My entire life.” … 

Oprah: “So, what made you a bully?”

Lance: “I think just trying to perpetuate the story and hide the truth.” 

Oprah: “Would you do anything to win at all costs?”

Lance: “Basically. 

Then, listen at 44:00-46:30 (also available on Oprah’s website) to his confession of how he attempted to silence, defame, and destroy friends who knew the truth about him.

Oprah: “This is what doesn’t make any sense. When people were saying things … you would then go on the attack for them. You’re suing people and you know that they’re telling the truth. What is that?”

Lance: “It’s a major flaw, and it’s a guy who expected to get whatever he wanted and to control every outcome.”

Chilling. But, unfortunately, familiar. I have personally known business leaders, political leaders, and most sadly, church and ministry leaders, who operated in a similar way. Some are considered “successful,” but they’ve left behind a wake of wounded people as they’ve plowed through life to get where they are.  They would probably excuse their behavior as healthy competitiveness, mission-focus, or necessary protection, though it was really just unbridled arrogance and disgusting narcissism.

For those who profess to be followers of Christ, there is no place for such thinking or behavior. Jesus taught that real leadership, real greatness, involves serving others, not using and controlling them for our own purposes. When we realize that someone is manipulating people for their own ends, without regard for the truth, we shouldn’t hesitate to identify that person as immature and potentially dangerous. If we see self-centeredness or deceit rising in our own hearts, we would be wise to confess our pride to trusted friends, do whatever we can to repay those we’ve mistreated … no matter what it costs us (like Zacchaeus) … and then retrain our sinful patterns by serving those who can never contribute to our personal agendas.

Lance now seems apologetic. Is he sincerely repentant? I sure hope so. Only time will tell. But, if he’s like some others I’ve known (and I suspect this may be the case since he came forward only after the truth about his lies was publicly known and he had been stripped of all seven of his championship medals), this interview may just be a last ditch attempt to “control the narrative” yet again.

2 Replies to “Lessons from Lance Armstrong’s Lies”

  1. It seems like Lance Armstrong was determined to win at any cost. I think that a lot of driven people, in sports, business, or any area of life, are determined to win no matter what the cost. And in sports, where performance enhancing drugs were and still are very common, they felt they needed to use them to compete. I wonder how Lance would have done if he didn’t use the illegal substances and techniques. Obviously it wasn’t right what he did, and I don’t think he would have confessed if he wasn’t caught. On the other hand, he did a lot of good things for cancer patients. Most people have good and bad sides, and then can rationalize the bad by pointing to the good. I’m not a defender of Lance. I think your analysis is very good. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I appreciate your comments. My concerns about his conduct go far beyond the drug use. When he took banned drugs, that was one level of deceit. When he lied about doing so, that took it to another level. But when he slandered others and destroyed their lives to cover his deceit and achieve what he desired, it was blatantly evil. It’s that third level that especially concerns me. Yes, he did a lot of good, but none of that excuses his intentionally hurting others.

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