Tonight I watched the first episode of Oprah’s interview of Lance Armstrong. I came to the interview with an open mind. Or rather, as open a mind as one could have after reading the entire USADA report on the conspiracy Lance Armstrong had led, and the coverup that was orchestrated around it.
The interview was ok. Oprah was kid-gloved in her questions. But in listening to Lance’s responses, she gave him a heavy dose of the “Oprah Fish Eye,” which I understand from my wife is interpreted as Oprah-speak for “I’m not buying this.” So net/net Lance didn’t rehabilitate himself much.
But to me the larger story is what a world-class bully this guy was. He ruined the lives of teammates, employees and vendors, who weren’t able to sustain the Armstrong-led deception. And while USADA documented Armstrong’s shameful actions in text, the Oprah Interview is exactly the place to put this under a harsh, harsh light.
Yes, Armstrong won a dirty race against dirty competitors. Yes, Armstrong is a humanitarian who inspired countless cancer victims to fight and fight hard against their afflictions. But he is also a bully. A bully who, according to court sworn testimony, could be characterized as sociopathic. Reputations were destroyed. Futures were ruined. All based on the a king among the paupoers of a sport no one in sports had paid any attention to, cycling. Armstrong’s teammates and confidantes were all just one word away from being bounced out of the highest levels of an industry they loved and into a job as a maintenance manager at a bike shop. He is a bully of historic proportions.
His benefits to people fighting cancer are important. He’s an inspiration. I get this. But bullying people, ruining people’s lives, their reputations, in order to forward a story is WRONG. It’s completely wrong.
And it’s wrong, not in a small way. But rather, it’s wrong in a big way. In my view, bullying is is as big a problem as cancer. In today’s world, we are fighting bullying in many places. We deal with it in our schools with our own children. We see it as well in far away places where the stakes are even higher–in places like Rwanda or the Sudan where we see genocides. In places like Thailand and Vietnam where we see human slavery and trafficking. And too often, we don’t fight as hard as we can on these fronts.
But they are all bullying. And bullying is wrong. And it needs to be called out as wrong. It needs to be shamed.
It needs to stop. And we all need to call it out.