Lance Armstrong

Just watched Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey where he confesses to doping over his entire career. Here is a man who recovered from cancer and went on to win 7 titles in an extremely demanding sport. Only to have it all fall apart. What went wrong?

I have never followed the sport, but judging from the interview and the nature of the sport itself, it seems clear that doping has been a common and widespread practice. In any case there does not seem to be any clear line demarcating what practices should be allowed and what practices should not. A sportsman in such an environment will have only two choices. Dope and compete with others on a level footing or not dope and accept that you will never be able to win. Is the first choice wrong? If so, why?

This is not a question limited to cycling alone. It is very much relevant in other fields as well. Speaking of India, it is clear that all politics and many areas of business are such that success requires breaking the rules. In fact, some of these rules are so flawed that they should not exist at all in any reasonable system. Others rules may not be flawed in themselves, but given the effects of the rules that are flawed, it is nevertheless difficult to follow them. In such circumstances, what should a person with an indomitable spirit and a fierce desire to succeed do? Is it OK to break rules that one thinks are wrong? Is it OK to break rules that are impractical?

Unless one wants to be a rebel and openly fight the “system”, it is wrong to base one’s entire career on breaking rules – regardless of whether those rules are right or wrong. It is wrong because one is then living a contradiction – pursuing success as defined by the very system whose rules one intends to break. In the long term, that cannot work. As Lance Armstrong found out.

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