Another perspective on Armstrong

j-sworks

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#1
All,

I wrote this for a discussion activity in my Sociology class and wanted to post it here, for further discussion or just as an interesting read. If you wish respond please do so thoughtfully, that is, intelligently. As a student of the social sciences I am always interested to learn about others thoughts, ideas, and so on.

What Lance Armstrong’s situation teaches us about Labeling and symbolic interactionism; this article in the Vancouver Sun discusses the final UCI decision to uphold the removal of all Tour De France victories from Lance.

Symbolic interactionism tell us that the final decision one makes is the result of “a process of social recognition, identification, labeling, or naming” of the situation and how to respond to it. The disappointing story and the events that took place within this investigation were shocking to the general public, if for nothing more than the intricate details that were exposed. From a sociological perspective, more specifically that of symbolic integrationist’s, it raises important questions about how Lance arrived at his decisions and what social pressures were influencing those decisions, for instance recognition and identification.

The general public swiftly applied the label of “doping”, a word synonymous with cocaine and other illicit drugs, yet in the pro cycling world with it’s own set of social norms, values, and beliefs may have previously not seen this label as appropriate. The first reported death from drug overdose was Tom Simpson in 1967 at the age of 29, and during the next days stage of the Tour De France his teammates and fellow riders said they had no idea why he collapsed on the previous stage, this was the wall of silence shown to anyone outside the pro peloton (the main group of pro riders in the Tour).

Functionalists would have us believe that the use of performance enhancing drugs is an objective event that is followed by an objective response, but this does not account for differing belief systems that subsequently color ones decision making process. Personally I do not agree with Armstrong’s decisions, but I feel that it must be judged within its own context.

"It’s like walking into an exam room and half of the students have the answer key for the final exam and half do not, you obviously will not get the top grade now, and so what side of the classroom would you sit?" (Tim Smith, 2012)

References:
http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Lance+Armstrong+kicked+cycling+world+that+made+icon/7428662/story.html"Lance Armstrong kicked out of cycling world that made him an icon", Vancouver Sun online article, October 23, 2012.

Parkinson-Drislane, 2011, Nelson Education Limited, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Tim Smith, 2012
 

bloaker

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#3
Conflict Perspective - It is cultures fault you are who are you are.
Lance is a victim of a corrupt culture of cycling. A culture that has promoted added advantages that will render a 'clean' athlete average at best. To get ahead, he embraced and perfected a culture that already existed. Therefore he became the greatest as can be expected given the variables he had to deal with.

Functional Perspective - He is one ball short of a fully functional dick.
 

bloaker

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#5
My first degree was sociology. I can look at things from many perspectives, but I am much more of a functionalist thinking.

I believe he had the opportunity to be legendary in regards to competing and possibly being the 'Whistle blower' himself on the sport. But that would mean he would have to put his goal of winning the tours and records to the side to battle a much larger problem. Instead of sacrificing himself and his personal goals to be the best 'clean' athlete in the sport, he chose to embrace the culture and excel as a cheater.

This is the choice a man made. He made the easier decision.
Sadly, to win the tours, he not only needed to be an exceptional athlete, but an exceptional cheater. I have no doubts he worked his off for those tours.

He opted to be celebrated as a hero. He opted to cheat. He opted to take people's money in the name of 'awareness' (not research). He became an icon of hard work. He chose to sue for the money he said he deserved after the tour wins. He opted to be high profile and take everything given to him. He opted to destroy the careers of others.

People 'hate' Lance now because he destroyed an icon that was false from the beginning. Lance will be pursued for his money he relentlessly went after from others.

All this falls at Lance's feet because Lance made a decision to put his aspirations to win over to be clean. He made the bed he is now laying in.

/******* The Sad Part ******/

With Lance's background (cancer survivor) and his insane physical ability - he could have been the savior of cycling. Who wants to call out the 'cancer boy' with everyone's support? He had a bigger platform that most any other cyclist in his generation. He may not have succeeded in cleaning up the sport. But he would mean more positive to the sport than he is now.
 

j-sworks

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#6
Clearly a functionalists opinion, and on the flip-side of that - how many real hero's are there? a few thousand out of several billion?

It would be great to live in a world that can be explained in absolutes, yet this is not the case with human behaviour.

And again I am not supporting his discussions but offering another perspective that may shed more light on the motivations and influences behind his poor discussions.

I do see that functional perspectives are valuable, and I agree with some.

I truly wish all cyclists that ride "clean" the very best and I trust that they will change the sport or at least race under their own terms.
 

bloaker

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#8
Just my opinions...

how many real hero's are there? a few thousand out of several billion?
Depends on who is defining the word. Plenty of people have heroes that are not sports icons and maybe not even famous. Some people even compartmentalize their hero worship. "He is my 'cycling hero' but beyond that I don't care for him" etc...

It would be great to live in a world that can be explained in absolutes, yet this is not the case with human behaviour.
Agreed, but it is the person that can defy our natural tendencies to devote the time and effort (the right way) to achieve goals that are beyond ordinary that give them prestige. Lance was possibly more popular than most other athletes due to being a cancer survivor. It made his story all the more incredible. This is against normal human behavior. Hence the iconic/legendary status.

And again I am not supporting his discussions but offering another perspective that may shed more light on the motivations and influences behind his poor discussions.
Greed and Pride. We are all tempted by these two evils.
He had an opportunity that he felt selling his soul was worth to chase.
 

bloaker

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#9
To say that cycling has its own norms, mores, rules, etc is a fact.
To say any new cyclist must remove their own sense of right and wrong and embrace these - I disagree.
The Individual is ultimately responsible for their actions.
Lance Armstrong is not a victim of cycling. Lance was a proponent of all that is evil in cycling. Read the depositions of teammates that quit when pressured to dope. Lance was not just a player, but rather a ring leader.

To absolve Lance of any accountability due to the culture of cycling is the equivalent of saying police are not responsible to report coworkers breaking laws due to the cultural 'Code of Silence'

You know what is right and what is wrong.
If you desire to have something greater than your desire to be 'right' - you then have wrong.

I admit there is grey area, (and we will never know) but I feel if the sport was clean, Lance would have possibly introduced some kind of PED to dominate even more. As I stated before - Greed and Pride - are the two things that motivate Lance. Win at all costs vs Win within the rules - Lance is a Win at all cost guy. - ask his friends... oh wait.... ;)
 

Malte

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j-sworks

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#13

GSAstuto

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#16
There are 2 types of riders at Lance's level. Beaters and Winners. Lance was / is clearly a 'beater'. For him, its not about the bike -- very true. It's about crushing ANYONE and ANYTHING in front of him. The Winners will choose more social support and camaderie to achieve their goals. The beaters will cajole, bribe and use lots of passive aggressive behavior to get just enough support to BEAT.

Lance never won a TDF. In my opinion. He just BEAT everyone else. If one takes a small leap past ethics and morality (Josh, you know what I'm saying here) , then literally anything is possible. Lance chose to adopt his own personal set of norms and apply them by aggressive codependence onto his junior teammates. Happens all the time. "Hey kid" <what?> "Go buy me a beer" <I can't> "Better figure it out or you will be mud tomorrow!"

Psychology and Sociology can label these people as leaders, misfits, abnormal, whatever. The amazing thing to me is that humans can and will extend such primary control over one and another. This is utterly fascinating. And that we actually adhere to common norms to begin with. Motivation? Maslow, what would you say about all of this??
 

microcord

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#17
I've just seen a youtube of (well, showing very short bits of) Eddy Merckx setting a distance record for one hour in 1972. Before he starts, he very conspicuously sticks something up each nostril. What would that have been, and has there been a pharmaceutical continuum from the legal and admissible all the way to the illegal and notorious?

Another idle thought: There have certainly been great black cyclists, but overall the sport (from what little I know of it) seems curiously ... white. If the black/white ratio had been reversed, would the authorities have put the same amount of effort into chasing up suspicions of drug use, more, or less?
 

joewein

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#18
microcord, I don't think the predominant race in a sport has anything to do with enforcement of anti-doping rules.

Look at track and field. Athletes of West-African descent have a near monopoly in 100 and 200 m sprint, at least for the men. That sport is virtually as black as cycling is white, but has the same history of doping problems, where every victory is inherently suspect. Angel Heredia, a former PED supplier of top athletes, stated in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel that "the difference between 10.0 and 9.7 seconds are the drugs". That's basically the last 40 years or so of world records.
 

j-sworks

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#19
There are 2 types of riders at Lance's level. Beaters and Winners. Lance was / is clearly a 'beater'. For him, its not about the bike -- very true. It's about crushing ANYONE and ANYTHING in front of him. The Winners will choose more social support and camaderie to achieve their goals. The beaters will cajole, bribe and use lots of passive aggressive behavior to get just enough support to BEAT.

Lance never won a TDF. In my opinion. He just BEAT everyone else. If one takes a small leap past ethics and morality (Josh, you know what I'm saying here) , then literally anything is possible. Lance chose to adopt his own personal set of norms and apply them by aggressive codependence onto his junior teammates. Happens all the time. "Hey kid" <what?> "Go buy me a beer" <I can't> "Better figure it out or you will be mud tomorrow!"

Psychology and Sociology can label these people as leaders, misfits, abnormal, whatever. The amazing thing to me is that humans can and will extend such primary control over one and another. This is utterly fascinating. And that we actually adhere to common norms to begin with. Motivation? Maslow, what would you say about all of this??
Indeed, if one can modify their moral outlook to accommodate the situation then this is called a sociopathic personality disorder, and while there are other features of that disorder this a precursor to full in sociopathic behavior.
 

j-sworks

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#20
microcord, I don't think the predominant race in a sport has anything to do with enforcement of anti-doping rules.

Look at track and field. Athletes of West-African descent have a near monopoly in 100 and 200 m sprint, at least for the men. That sport is virtually as black as cycling is white, but has the same history of doping problems, where every victory is inherently suspect. Angel Heredia, a former PED supplier of top athletes, stated in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel that "the difference between 10.0 and 9.7 seconds are the drugs". That's basically the last 40 years or so of world records.
While I can't comment on the sporting world, microcord may be on to something.

Study's have shown that black's are focused on more so than whites in relation to illegal activity and law enforcement in the United States, and therefore are more often charged with such offenses than whites or any other race for that matter.

So perhaps it would like this in cycling if situations were reversed, yet here we are.