Lance Armstrong, doping, and how the average person responds.

 

 

 

As of now, the verdict behind the allegations of Lance Armstrong using performance enhancing drugs during his pro-cycling career, is still unclear, but the assumptions are rampant. If charged guilty,  Armstrong will be not only banned from competing in this sport, but the U.S Anti-Doping Agency will strip him of his record-breaking, seven Tour De France titles.

The full article about this controversy can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/sports/cycling/lance-armstrong-ends-fight-against-doping-charges-losing-his-7-tour-de-france-titles.html?pagewanted=all

Armstrong is not refuting these charges, and, in fact, in response to all the doping allegations, he stated, “There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, enough is enough. For me, that time is now.

In the name of cycling, Armstrong’s name is synonymous with success and fame, just as Tiger Woods was with golfing (before his cheating scandal), Kobe Bryant is with basketball, and Serena Williams is with tennis. These names carry a certain degree of fame, because people recognize them, even if they do not follow that particular sport. 

In line with the makeup of most court cases, Armstrong’s high-profile situation can conceivably go in four directions: 

1. Armstrong is considered guilty, although he is actually innocent.

In statistics, we call this Type 1 Error. In law enforcement, this refers to the belief of “guilty until proven innocent.” In sports and media cases, however, this is usually uncommon, because we take extreme measures to avoid accusing an individual (especially celebrities) of a crime he or she did not admit.  As of now, Armstrong represents a strong, moral character in both professional athletics and cancer advocacy. A guilty charge will likely result in a dramatic loss of supporters, sponsors, and overall disapproval. HOWEVER, if, in fact, he is found innocent and this is discovered much later on, the public will respond with overwhelming rage towards the “injustice” of the legal team and court power behind the case.

2. Armstrong is considered innocent, and he is actually innocent.

This an ideal situation within the political spectrum. However, just like any other court outcome, it has its share of flaws. For instance, it is far easier to prove innocence over guilt, since guilt demands a certain criteria of evidence. In Armstrong’s case, guilt is hard to prove, since this case refers to past allegations, and Armstrong cannot actually be tested for using performance enhancing drugs. The U.S Anti-Doping Agency will have to dig much deeper to find substantial evidence to convict him of committing the alleged crimes, including looking back at former test results and hearing the eyewitness testimonies of several close teammates. Upon the completion of this battery of tasks, if Armstrong is convicted innocent, some will respond with relief and restoration in an iconic American figure. Others will once again be disappointed in the way law enforcement favors celebrities.

3. Armstrong is considered guilty, and he is actually guilty.

This, too, is considered an ideal situation, because it removes the ambiguity and replaces it with the black-and-white. Above all, a guilty sentence with substantial evidence provides reassurance, in the sense that justice is served. We seek this in high-profile criminal cases, such as murder or rape, when we feel certain that the alleged perpetrator was indeed guilty. If this happens to Armstrong, his prestigious reputation will suffer, and consequently, he will lose many privileges and support he generates as a professional cyclist. However, not everyone will be disappointed. Some supporters will stand by his side and point out that, “most everyone else was doping, too.” In all levels of athletics, cheating is a rampant trend; few, however, actually get caught and in trouble for their crimes. Cycling is not immune to the doping scandal, and Armstrong is hardly a unique case in regards to the Tour De France. A guilty sentence may simply reinforce and bring attention to this epidemic in professional sports, which can help strengthen future laws and disciplinary action. 

4. Armstrong is considered innocent, although he is actually guilty.

This is a realistic representative of the “err on the side of caution” case, and in the legal sense, because we do not convict someone “until proven guilty.” People tend to perceive this as either the best thing we have in judicial court, or the worst, due to its subjective nature. Celebrities have the luxury to afford the best attorneys and public relations teams. The criminal justice system appears to favor individuals with status and affluence, which can explain why famous people often receive lesser sentences or jail time for their crimes than would average citizens. With regards to Armstrong, if this situation occurred, he would essentially “beat the system.” The public response tends to divide when this happens. Avid supporters will likely respond in a smug, “I told you so” manner, whereas those who oppose Armstrong or believe in the doping accusations may refuse to take an innocent charge at face-value and argue that “he’s guilty, but just got lucky, because he’s famous.” This type of behavior was famously displayed with the drawn-out O.J Simpson trial.

In conclusion, Lance Armstrong’s reputation has already shifted from world-class professional cyclist and famous cancer advocate to “the cyclist who may have been doping.” In the next few weeks, that title will change again to “the cheater who doped” or “the cyclist who was accused of dope,” depending on the court outcome. Nevertheless, his sentence will stir even more controversy, because an innocent verdict does not mean everyone will necessarily believe it, just as not everyone will believe he is guilty if given a guilty verdict. And, finally, there will always people who argue that we spend far too much attention on high-profile celebrities, and that this is an irrelevant issue anyway.

 

 

 

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