Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

Ethical Implications of Lance Armstrong's Performance-Enhancing Drug Case

Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

Ethical Implications of Lance Armstrong's Performance-Enhancing Drug Case

Article excerpt


From his first big race win in 1993 to his seventh Tour de France (TdF) win in 2005, Lance Armstrong was a champion. In 1996, prior to winning the TdF, Armstrong was ranked as the top cyclist in the world (Martin & Rowen, 2013). Amazingly he battled testicular cancer later that year, which had spread through multiple sites in his body, yet he recovered and went on to break records. But according to Goff (2013), "extraordinary success invites extraordinary scrutiny." Over the years, beginning with his return from cancer, Armstrong was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs - from cortisone cream to Actovegin (Weislo, 2013). An expose was written by Walsh and Ballester in 2004 alleging the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) by Armstrong, but the evidence was circumstantial (Martin & Rowen, 2013). Floyd Landis, a former teammate, won the TdF in 2006, but was disqualified for the use of synthetic testosterone found in a drug test. Landis then targeted Armstrong and filed a whistleblower lawsuit (Sinnott & McGowan, 2013). From 1999 to 2012, Armstrong denied any use of PEDs and was even featured on an advertisement for Nike in which he said, "Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? ... I'm on my bike."

On Jan. 17 and 18, 2013, Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive aired causing widespread discussion of the doping accusations. Armstrong was finally admitting to the use of PEDs. His seven TdF wins had been stripped from him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in August 2012, but many people continued to believe in his innocence. In October 2012, the USADA released a 202-page document detailing the agency's evidence against him, and that report caused the International Cycling Union (UCI) to choose not to appeal the USADA's decision to ban Armstrong for life (Macur, 2012). The president of UCI, Pat McQuaid, said, "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling; he deserves to be forgotten in cycling" (Macur, 2012, para. 3). Not long after that decision, Armstrong removed himself from leadership of his foundation, LIVESTRONG.

Founded in 1997, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, now known as LIVESTRONG, has raised almost $500 million and has helped more than 2.5 million people dealing with cancer (McLane, 2012). The organization is known for its distinctive yellow bracelets printed with LIVESTRONG, which were introduced in 2004 in a joint effort with Nike ("Milestones," 2013). On Oct. 17, 2013, Lance Armstrong broke the news that he would step down:

I have had the great honor of serving as this foundation's chairman for the last five years and its mission and success are my top priorities. Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship. (McLane, 2012, para. 4)

When his resignation statement was posted on the LIVESTRONG blog, most responses were positive and said things like, "There has been a LiveSTRONG band on my wrist since 2004 ... and there will be a LiveSTRONG band on my wrist for as long as the global war against cancer continues." There were others who expressed support for LIVESTRONG for a different reason: "I am pledging $1200/year today as a result of the pathological cheater stepping down." He disappointed many because of his apparent PED usage, his denials of such usage and his attempts to silence others.

Sports as a cultural artifact impacts culture and influences society values in a significant way and, in many ways, serves as a teaching and learning tool for ethical decision-making by holding athletes, coaches and their respective organization to a higher moral standard. Sports reflect society values like team building and fairness and serves as a tool for teaching moral values like work ethic, perseverance and commitment to young people. Scholars have argued that it is unethical for athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs to help them in competition, citing issues of fairness, harm, and the "spirit of sport" (Coakley, 1998; Lavin, 2001; Sandel, 2007; Simon, 2004). …

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