Lance Armstrong: Villain or Victim?

 In Blog

I have never wanted to believe Lance Armstrong was using performance enhancers to win a record seven Tour de France races. Then I sadly heard that he decided to no longer contest the charges against him.

Like the news media and almost everyone in the world, I’m thinking “Here we go again… another fallen sports hero on the same team with Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds and Mike Tyson.”

But wait! This week’s cover story on Newsweek Magazine by Buzz Bissinger gave me a completely different perspective. Bissinger made a lot of legitimate points:

  •  Maybe Lance’s decision had nothing to do with fear of being found guilty, but was about the emotional and mental toll of years of fighting charges that have never been proven.


  • It would be bad for Lance, his family and the sport to drag everyone through the legal process.


  • Lance passed hundreds of drug tests including many given randomly.


  • Was he the target of a witch hunt since at least a third of the top ten finishers in the Tour de France have admitted using performance enhancers or suspected of it (according to the New York Times)?


  • Maybe he was leveling the playing field if he did use them.


  • It was a slam job by the USADA in a desperate move to prove they are cleaning up sports.


  • Lance was the perfect big target and symbol for the USADA to justify its existence.


  • The USADA proclaimed his decision not to fight the charges an admission of guilt.


  • A federal court judge (Sam Sparks) questioned the motives of the USADA saying, “the court is concerned that the USADA has targeted Armstrong’s prosecution for years and that the USADA is motivated more by politics and a desire for media attention than faithful adherence to its obligations.”

How did your show treat this story? Did everyone agree that it’s sad that Lance is guilty since he decided to stop fighting the doping charges?

Or did you or someone on your show take the minority view with some of the points listed above or other views of your own to create contrast and sticky content?

Was it pointed out that Lance Armstrong fits the definition of a hero, regardless of the facts in the story? That he is someone who overcame cancer at the age of 25 and came back to be one of the greatest athletes of all time? That Lance Armstrong’s foundation to fight cancer has raised over half a billion dollars? That he inspired millions of kids to get into cycling?

Contrast and passionate debate between two or more players on a show gives everyone listening someone to agree with and validate their thoughts, thus bringing out a positive emotion. An opposing viewpoint gives everyone listening someone to disagree with, which often presses an emotional hot button (bringing out yet another emotion). The result is fully engaged listeners. 

Despite popular opinion there are always two sides to every story. Dig beyond the mass view and start by asking “what’s the other side of the story?” How can we give this discussion more contrast and depth? Polarize the setup if you take it out to listeners (e.g. “Lance Armstrong: Villain or victim?”).

Every great radio show, TV show, movie and book incorporates conflict in some way, with most of the entertainment arising out of the conflict.


– by Randy Lane


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