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Lance Armstrong – Sport, Competition and Cheating

July 11, 2014

In a recent Lance Armstrong documentary, showing in line with the beginning of the 2014 tour de france, he made the claim that since the definition of cheating is getting an advantage over your rivals, he did not cheat during his tour de france victories as all his rivals were also using performance enhancing drugs.

It is an interesting point. But we can undermine its apparent authority when we ask for another a definition. This time of a “rival”. A rival in this situation is someone able to compete with Lance Armstrong in those races. Yet no one who was clean was in a position to compete with him at this time. So it remains the case he was cheating compared to these people. Even though they may not class as rivals.

Another sense in which he was cheating is that by making the contest dependent on taking these drugs it means that fewer and fewer people will have the resources to compete on a level playing field. A bit like the advantage at one time in swimming for those with specially designed costumes that provided better motion through the water. Your average person taking up a sport is not going to be able to access these kinds of resources, and so there is an unfair hierarchy created.  Based on wealth and power, rather than based on the individual athletes abilities.

The use of drugs has become again a complicated issue in the tour de france with the use of certain drugs for medicinal purposes to combat allergies or to lessen the effects of a cold or illness. It can be difficult to know precisely where to draw the line in specific circumstances.

But through all the complications, the thing to not lose sight of is that competition of a sporting kind should be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, regardless of their background and their access to wealth and resources. It is sticking close to this that ensures the spirit of a sport remains intact. Allowing people starting from scratch and with nothing to have belief that maybe some day with hard work and dedication, they could compete at the top level.

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One Comment
  1. I have competed in sport. I have never taken enhancing drugs, and I enjoy the knowing that I achieve to the level I competed at by skill and work. Those that take drugs, the cheats, deserve the harsh penalties they get, since they demean and undermine the many who work without cheating in sport.

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