Like a lot of people, I brought into the Lance Armstrong hype way before the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency implemented him. To me, even back then, wearing the Livestrong bracelets was not so much about supporting Lance Armstrong, but for fighting cancer and challenges everywhere.
A lot of people I talk to who supported Armstrong and believed him when he said he was being singled-out, are angry and many are destroying their Livestrong bracelets.
If you look at those bracelets as supporting Lance Armstrong, then I understand that, but everything is about perception and I think those bracelets and the good his foundation has done can’t be torn apart by his wrong doings.
What does bother me is that he apparently lied so many times, adamantly about his use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). I read in some reports that he threatened to ruin peoples lives, including his masseuse if she didn’t help keep his secrets.
When I watch the many video tapes of Armstrong vehemently denying his use of PEDs, even as the evidence against him mounted up, I started seeing a different side of him.
He no longer was the pristine character I and many others had mad him out to be, but that is our fault. We made him out to be better than he really was.
Once I really started to see Lance Armstrong and not his accomplishments and charisma, I started to see a very egotistical person with clear signs of a narcissistic personality.
I saw a man who was drunk with power. Here was a man who had done more for cancer research and awareness than anyone I can think of and yet cheated in the Tour de France and continued to lie about it for years despite the evidence.
He used his charisma to raise millions of dollars for cancer research, while at the same time cheating and dominating at the sport that made him famous.
Many people in history with narcissistic personalities were charismatic and often started off as good before turning bad, such as Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro and Jim Jones. There are many present day examples as well, just look around and you’ll start to notice them.
People with narcissistic personalities have big egos that create a need for importance and are often driven to success.
That doesn’t make them all bad people. All of us can be a bit narcissistic at times, but people with narcissistic personalities tend to take it to the point where they can’t recognize when they are wrong or need help because they think they have no flaws and they don’t take personal responsibility.
Lance’s narcissistic personality made it hard for him to take responsibility for his actions and also made him think that he was smarter than everyone else. Even in the face of undeniable evidence, he still tried to hold on to his heroic facade.
The problem is, as people we usually like to characterize people as all “good” or all “bad”, but humans are complex beings with the ability to be both good and bad. When we put someone on a pedestal, only admiring their good side, we are quickly disappointed and hurt when they show us their not so good side, which all of us have to some extent.
A couple of years ago, a pastor here in Orlando who had a past history of drug abuse and sexual defiance, became very charismatic, successful and popular in the community, growing his congregation into tens of thousands, at multiple services at multiple churches and nationally televised.
He was outspoken and passionate about uplifting communities, staying away from drugs and challenging men to be men. People flocked to him and his church and clung to him as if he were the perfect example of a good man and a Christian.
Imagine everyone’s shock when he was found dead in a New York city hotel of “natural causes” with a white powdery substance in his position.
Many people believe the pastor died of a drug over dose, but his congregation and family refused to believe it and til this day his family is fighting to keep his official cause of death sealed. They had made this man out to be a hero, to be perfect, just as many had did with Lance Armstrong, and they didn’t want to tarnish his reputation.
As humans we like to root for people, to champion people and make heroes out of athletes, celebrities, and sometimes people in our communities like religious leaders, and it’s easy to get disillusioned and forget that they are all just people just like us.
I’m not angry with Lance, after all, he is just human, just a man who made some bad decisions along with some great ones including helping raise awareness and research for cancer. I just hope that he will come completely clean and allow us to get to know all of him without the hero facade.
This will require him taking personal responsibility for his past mistakes however, something that is difficult for people with a narcissistic personality to do. The world and I will be watching.
**edit: I wrote this post before I saw his interview with Oprah and walked away from that interview more convinced that Lance Armstrong is a narcissist. In the interview he often spoke in the third person, as if it wasn’t really him being interviewed. He often seemed rather cold, detached and guarded despite this being a “tell all” interview. He touched his face a lot, which is a form of body language known as “The Mouth Guard” which is a sign that someone is unsure if what they are saying is really the truth, or consciously or unconsciously they know that what they are saying is a lie. Maybe Lance wasn’t totally lying, but he was not being completely, totally honest. Still, I think the good his Livestrong foundation has done is much bigger than one person.