Lance Armstrong May Be A Narcissist, But We Made Him A Hero

Lance-Armstrong-denies-pic-jpgLike 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.

Human Rights Violations, Psychological Damage and Caster Semenya

Most of us know Mokgadi Caster Semenya as the South African middle-distance runner who’s gender came into question after she blew away her competition during the women’s 800 meters at the 2009 World Championships with a then world record time of 1:55.45.

I remember when her gender came into question first in the media, then among my peers who insisted due to Semenya’s masculine appearance, voice and astonishing athletic feats, that she had to be a man, or at the minimum, not all woman.

The International Associate of Athletics Federation (IAAF) reported that they had to investigate Semenya after she made improvements in both her 800 and 1500 meter times by 8 seconds and 25 seconds respectfully, improvements in performance that usually arouse suspicions of performance enhancement drugs (PEDs) use. At this time, the IAAF also tricked Semenya and performed a gender test without her permission, something she confirmed during an interview with NBC before her Olympic race in London. Semenya stated that she knew she was being tested for PEDs, something she was used to, but didn’t know she was going through a gender test until the testing became more of a violation, poking and probing in areas she knew weren’t part of any PEDs test she had ever been through.

If this is true, which various sources confirm, it is a violation of her human rights. Furthermore, she had to seek the legal services of Dewey & LeBoeuf who are acting pro bono to make sure her legal, human and civil rights will not be further violated.

After more gender tests and speculation over her eligibility to compete as a woman, the IAAF finally cleared her in July 2010 to return to competition as a woman and has yet to release their findings from her gender tests. Since her medical records are private, it may never be known if much of the embarrassment and scrutiny Semenya was subjected to was all for nothing, but one would suspect that if the IAAF had enough evidence to suggest Semenya wasn’t “technically” a woman, they would have released it.

I have to imagine that this young lady, at the time this all began she was only 18, suffered imaginable psychological damages having the world not only question who she was as a person, but to be examined like an animal with the world waiting for the results.

Since returning to international racing Semenya hasn’t been her self. During her 800 race in the London Olympics she got silver after trailing most of the race and only running hard towards the end to secure a second place finish. Many commentators, sport analyst and spectators commented that Semenya seemed to lose the race on purpose, saying that she didn’t seem tired after the race, much like she had in an earlier international race where she got a silver. If this is true, it is sad, but can you see why someone who previously fell under world scrutiny after finishing first, would purposely opt out of being in that position again.

In an interview after the race, Semenya stated that her head just wasn’t into it. This is the Olympics, what professional athlete’s head is not into their Olympic event? Maybe one who had her human rights violated and was kept out of competition while the IAAF tried to verify her gender which indeed caused an untold amount of psychological damage.

In that same interview with NBC, Semenya asked the interviewer, Mary Carillo how she would feel if she was subjected to the same scrutiny while the world watched through a microscope and the interviewer had no response. Semenya stated “you might even think about taking a suicide” which to me suggests at some point, Semenya did indeed think about committing suicide.  I am so glad that she was strong enough, confident enough and resilient enough to overcome that destructive and irreversible thought. Now if only her psychological damages can be healed enough where she can feel free to race at her best and win without fear of once against being cast into the world spotlight for anything other than being one of the best women 800 meters runners ever.