By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)
I recently read this article in the New York Times about Lance Armstrong. Armstrong is a world famous cyclist and well known “do-gooder” with his “Live Strong” website, which purports to tell others how to “Live Well and Live Strong.” Armstrong is a survivor of cancer. Testicular cancer is a “young man’s” disease and one that I sought to teach my college-aged patients about when I worked as a director of student health. I also have a close friend who is now a middle-aged man who is also a survivor of testicular cancer. It is a horrible disease.
It has been rumored for years that Armstrong was “doping”—using stored blood for reinfusion before races and/or taking drugs. Only now is the vast amount of evidence coming out about just how prevalent this was for not only Armstrong, but for his teammates as well.
One of the things that stuck out in the article to me was the following quote:
But the evidence put forth by the antidoping agency drew a picture of Armstrong as an infamous cheat, a defiant liar and a bully who pushed others to cheat with him so he could succeed, or be vanquished.
I can’t say from what I know about Armstrong’s vigorous narcissistic self-promotion as a “philanthropist” and a “do-gooder,” or from the above quote, that Armstong is a psychopath. But I can say that if the above quote accurately describes him as a cheat, a defiant liar and a bully, that Armstrong is displaying some of the traits that we know are found in a psychopath’s behavior.
People who lie, cheat and bully are not the kind of people that we want in our lives. It is unfortunate when people who hold themselves up as role models for others, and for our young people, actually lie, cheat and bully those around them. Yet they are seen as “successful role models” for our young people.
Jerry Sandusky also held himself up as a role model and philanthropist, as well as a person of high morality. He was still a defiant liar as he was sentenced this week after being convicted of sexual abuse of multiple young children.
“His statement today was a masterpiece in banal self-delusion, completely untethered from reality and without any acceptance of responsibility,” said Joseph E. McGettigan III, the lead prosecutor. “It was entirely self-focused, as if he, him, were the victim. It was, in short, ridiculous.”
Judge Cleland deemed Mr. Sandusky’s statement “unbelievable.”
Of course Armstrong’s “crimes” were not probably as damaging to our youth as Sandusky’s were to his victims. The point is that people who are high in disordered traits lie in the face of evidence against them. Dr. Robert Hare says psychopaths will “lie when the truth would fit better.” The lie when the evidence of their behavior is unequivocal.
I could go on and name hundreds of media heroes who have been brought down from the heights of fame and fortune by having their bad acts and their highly psychopathic behavior exposed. The shame I think, though, is that there are way too many people who are in the limelight whose behavior is known among those close to them, just like Armstrong’s and Sandusky’s behaviors were known. Yet those people kept silent about it.
Why are people who know about such horrific behavior as the rape of young boys (such as Paterno knew) willing to sacrifice honor (at the very least) to protect a football program, or a racing team, or a priest who is abusing children? I wish I knew the answer to that, but I don’t.
What I do know, though, is that there are too many times that I have kept my mouth shut … kept the family secrets, or even lied to cover them up. So I, too, am guilty of covering up for those that have done evil. But I have made the decision to never again do so.