This past year has been a tough one for confidence in my peers. Historically, I’ve had some form of ethical event about every five years and 2012 will stand out. The developments in cycling, and their implication to my sport of triathlon, have impacted me quite deeply.
My wife thinks that I’ve been focusing on Lance but it’s the implications for my athletic life, combined with local scandals, that have been most difficult for me. 2012 saw the discovery of many secret lives in my peers.
If you read Charlie Munger then you’ll find examples of the corrosive effects of creating incentives for people to lie. What starts as an individual tragedy flows into society when a class of people starts lying to themselves (sports figures, politicians, financiers). Living in a society that is filled with secret lives damages everyone. I prefer wide latitude for personal freedom with clear, and certain, punishments for crossing the line.
Secret lives come in many forms – drug use, alcoholism, theft, marital infidelity, disordered eating, overeating, sexual preference, sexual deviance, financial fraud, agency risk…
Coming out of cycling, the best confession (for personal ethics) that I read was Floyd saying (and I paraphrase) that he did it and he’d probably do it again. Pretty much everybody else has fallen back on the “I had a dream” defense and/or “I was only following orders.”
This hits me hard because I’ve left a marriage, a partnership and put companies into bankrupcy because I felt it was necessary to remain true to myself. The short-term costs to me have been material but far outweighed by the long-term benefits (and I can sleep at night without presciption medication).
Everybody doesn’t do it.
Perhaps Floyd’s honesty is mirrored behind closed doors – it’s better in the long run to be honest with yourself. As Gordon Livingston tweeted this week – it’s easier to tell the truth to others when we’re not lying to ourselves!
In Boulder, we’re highly indignant of doping cheats (that get caught). However, we’re surprisingly lax about other forms of cheating that have a much greater impact on families. I wonder if the haters would be as venomous if they knew the moral ambiguity pervasive in elite segments of society. Perhaps they’d share my 2012 crisis of confidence.
Would helping you connect the dots increase, or decrease, suffering? I’m mulling that over. Suffice to say, the public only knows a faction of what happens in sport, in finance and in business. I keep changing fields and it keeps following me.
Anyhow, I have come up with an idea to be part of the solution with respect to elite sport and will be sharing my biological passport over at Endurance Corner.
A very smart friend advised me to stay positive and stay on message. Reading all the hate is wearing me out – no need to add to that, or bring down my pals.
Back to my original point about secret lives – if you read about cycling (The Secret Race, Racing Through the Dark), you’ll see what kills (non-sociopathic) people is knowing they are living a lie. Forcing good people underground weakens society.
We might think that raging against the dopers is just but do we want to train an anger response in our lives?
Consider eating disorders – I have a number of pals that have confided that they can’t come forward and tell everyone what it’s really like because ‘everyone will think I’m a headcase.’ Truth is most top athletes are headcases – there aren’t too many ‘normal’ people that want to exercise themselves towards their maximum genetic potential.
Or sexual preference – imagine being born a certain way and living in secret, often from your own parents. Even with tolerance and compassion, it isn’t easy rolling through life as a visible minority. Collectively forcing these men and women to live a lie is unjust and sets up a corrosive internal rationalization that can take years to unwind.
Closest to home is sexual abuse. I graduated from a Catholic high school, where I won a student-of-the-year scholarship. Ironically, my award was named after a priest that abused my friends. The boys have become men and continue to carry a pain from being victims of a very ill man.
Far better to release the past than carry the pain forward.
Live an open life.