I’m Lance Armstrong

I’m Lance Armstrong, which I say rather gratefully believe it or not.

Steve Roberts black ink drawing: elaborate heart with the word “Merci” across it, riding a unicycle.
I’m Lance Armstrong, which I say rather gratefully believe it or not. 

Following the first day’s television broadcast of Mr. Armstrong’s confessional with Oprah, I heard a radio conversation with Daniel Coyle, co-author of a book with Tyler Hamilton, one of Mr. Armstrong’s  former cycling teammates.  Titled The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France, the book evidently (I haven’t read it) includes Mr. Hamilton’s account of wide-spread use of illegal performance enhancements, to which Mr. Armstrong was party.  When Mr. Coyle was asked by the radio talk show host what he felt as he watched Mr. Armstrong’s statements to Oprah, Mr. Coyle said with great compassion that it was about ten percent of the story––but a significant achievement for Mr. Armstrong.

Mr. Coyle went on to explain that, in his opinion, the depth and elaborateness of Mr. Armstrong’s self-delusion was so intricatly woven into his psyche and so long in duration (he did win seven Tour de France titles) that it would likely take him quite some time to grasp a fulsome understanding of his choices, and speak about them. 

To which I, fellow delusionist, say, “Yessss.”

Addiction, if my mud-wrestling with it is any clue, is only incidentally about what we put in our body and everything about the compulsive focus of our attention.  Texting; anger; gardening; reading; the approval of others; defiance of authority; the need to understand; the need to be right; the need to push ourselves beyond any limits of body, mind and society….  The ways addiction shows up are endless.  The impact of addiction is reasonably predictable.  When the compulsion meter hits the red zone, one’s moral compass becomes increasingly unreliable.

This doesn’t mean we’re inherently dishonest.  It means we’re nuts.  That’s the impact of addiction.  It limits the maturing process.  We ignore the voice of our heart in the face of our own fear or the fears of others.

I can’t define Lance Armstrong’s addiction, but I sure know what it means to have a wacky moral compass.

I drank alcoholically for 30 years.  During that time, various parts of my being didn’t mature as they would have otherwise.  I’ve been sober for 24 years.  My moral compass has been reliable for a while, but I’m still growing up. 

Even if he had run for president of the moon, there still would be nothing Lance Armstrong has done that surprises me.  I get the craziness of addiction.  All bets are off.  But I also get the potential for healing when addiction is acknowledged and responded to with loving action.  And throughout the rest of his life, should Mr. Armstrong become a symbol of resurrection, that won’t surprise me either.


  1. Thank you, Steve, one more time for quickly seeing the writing on the wall about Lance. I am 25 years clean and sober and all that escaped my thought process. Dhaa! Excellent points you make.

  2. Yes, I saw my addiction in Lance too. He actually is younger than I was when it finally dawned on me. Good for him.
    I also wonder why he had to learn this lesson the way he did. Just think of how many knocks on the door he ignored in this and previous incarnations.
    Anyway, I hope he learns whatever he is supposed to from this as well as those who are pointing at him with righteous indignation. Remember when you point, three fingers are aimed back at you.

  3. I’m once again reminded that compassion, not blame, is the only choice I have. My addiction, since I’ve been sober, has been a gift that has enabled me to see what I need to and decide to change that which I can — myself!

    My prayer for Lance is that he will see how his experience can benefit others, and put it to good use!

  4. As an an avid cyclist and fan of cycling and LA, I was saddened, but only mildly surprised when all the news finally came out.

    His life has been about ten times the size of the average person in pretty much all aspects: his dad leaves home early, he becomes a professional triathlete at age 15, national champion at 19, world champion at 21, 7 TdF titles, defeats cancer, hangs with the A-crowd, dates rock stars, has 5 kids when he’s supposedly sterile, psychotic desire to win, has an apparent infinite capacity to suffer when he wants, passes 500 dope tests while doping, intimidates everyone, raises $500+ M for his foundation, visits LOTS sick kids in hospital wearing the yellow jersey, single handedly causes a cycling revolution in the US, makes millions for everyone near him, lays waste to huge numbers of nay-sayers’ careers and reputations, allows Pantani the win on an historic stage to Mt. Ventoux, lies numerous times under oath, consciously sues innocent people, inspires countless millions then let’s them all down, beats the best in the world in a half ironman at age 39, flies around in a Gulfstream, runs from the bottom to the top of Aspen Mountain in 47 minutes, he won the Leadville 100 riding on a flat tire the last ten miles, and it just goes on and on…

    Let’s not forget, he isn’t a pedophile or murderer. He didn’t commit genocide or take down the world economy. His fame came from cycling, from riding a bike.

    Almost all aspects of his life have been under the magnifying glass and now the really bad parts are having their turn. He absolutely is an addict and believes his own lies. To me, he seems like the rest of us, just on a much bigger scale!

  5. Surrounded by addictive behavior–family and peripheral family–I have struggled to know what is “real” coming out of someone’s mouth, or what is real in their actions, or mostly, what can be counted on as true from one time to the next vs. self-protective at all costs.

    Since I believe siloed power is as addicting as any narcotic, this would be true for many politicians, as well. Hmmm.

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"I honor that we are killing the earth for the same reason I consider being an alcoholic a privilege: it is a doorway to the profound self-understanding required to make truly healthy choices."

The Essay: Honoring the Killing of the Earth