Lance Armstrong, Jim Tressel and The Ethics Curve

So it is that time of year…spring has sprung, the sun is shinning, summer is just around the corner, and the Tour of California is rolling along. Oh, and keeping with the traditions of May, another of Lance Armstrong’s former teammates has come out with public accusations of doping. Ah yes, the joys of spring!

It is not a new story – doping in cycling. Certainly the Lance Armstrong story is not new – cancer survivor, 7 time Tour de France Champion, the LiveStrong Foundation, quite literally a source of inspiration to millions who battle cancer daily around the world.  It is the stuff of best-selling books and millions in cancer fund-raising and awareness. At this point it would seem almost everyone has an opinion…he did, he did not, he probably did, it does not matter if he did, or somewhere else on the spectrum.

However, while reading the latest Lance Armstrong allegations this morning, I could not help but think of the ongoing stream of articles and stories concerning Coach Jim Tressel and Ohio State Football.  Jim Tressel, the author of The Winners Manual:  For The Game Of Life – a widely praised book on leadership, faith and ethics – is himself in the eye of a storm of controversy and questions.  Lance is front page news globally;  he is the face of his sport.  Tressel and Ohio State might not be the face of College Football, but they are certainly one of the marquee programs.  While the story of systemic “issues” with Coach Tressel and the Ohio State football program are reported, they are hardly the stuff of mainstream news.

It seems rather ironic as I think about it – the actions of an adult professional athlete are scrutinized and judged in the public court of opinion, not to mention the foundation of multi-million dollar federal, criminal and global investigations.  Yet a coach and supposed teacher of young men, someone who has held himself up as a pillar of faith and ethical purity, is found to be at a minimum operating on the fringes of the rules, certainly suppressing and hiding incriminating information, and generally ducking accountability.  And what possibly could happen to the two individuals if the worst is proven to be true – Armstrong faces millions in fines and prison, and Tressel might be suspended from coaching and hit with a few hundred thousand in fines.

One has to wonder if there is a bit of an ethics curve in play?  The adult individual is more “wrong” for his actions than the teacher and coach of student athletes?  Never knew there was an ethics curve, but it seems in the real world of big money, big business, and big government there is.  I cannot think of a worse thing for a leader to do than put those they are leading into a compromising situation.  Doing that to adult, professional teammates is one thing.  Doing it to young, impressionable and to some degree naive kids – seems to be a whole other level of issue.

Interesting how it all plays out when you follow the money – College Football is worth a lot more in this country than cycling.  Sorry Lance – just the way it is on the ethics curve of our society it seems.


Filed under Coaching, Current affairs, Sports

8 responses to “Lance Armstrong, Jim Tressel and The Ethics Curve

  1. I agree with your argument here. The punishments should be equal and not dependent on the monetary impact. Ethics should rise above any type of artificially invented system, such as the financial system. Ethics and morals are eternal, and we as a society should honor their existence, not bastardize their very nature by linking them to financial importance. Doping in sports is wrong, no matter if it is done in college football, cycling, or table tennis. Of course it will take all of us voicing our opinion to change that.

    • Ed – You are so right – arbitrary application of ethics and morals undermines everything. It is a sad state, but unfortunately all too common it seems to “justify” choosen behaviours in the “name” of something. The ends justify the means mentality?

  2. Scott

    Isn’t the government going after him because he was paid government dollars for the postal team? I know there is probably a personal agenda too. I already think he doped, but I still admire his accomplishments. It’s funny but I have been in too many organizations where you were forced to compromise some morals to win. Some say they would never do that, but no one will ever be able to show me a human who hasn’t compromised their integrity for some gain at some time in their life. There was a very popular saying in the Army: “If you’re not Cheating you’re not Trying.” I have found that saying to be true in so many situations. We should all strive for Honesty and Integrity but try to make everything black and white is not a reality. Ask a soldier in Afghanistan what is the right thing to do with regards to rules of engagement and I don’t it will be so simple. My point is the Lance was in a battle and that’s was part of the strategy to win and he did. I am disappointed because my view of him has changed from a super human to opportunists somewhat. But I do admire in a (some would call it sick) weird way all that he had to do to win and he did it so perfectly. It was almost “flawless execution” until now. As far as equating the size and scope in consequences, many people would like to see Goldman Sachs punished, or rejoiced in Berny Madoff going to jail. I don’t know the right answers to any of it. But for me the world is so not black and white.

    • Scott – totally agree – it is never clear and easy. What really bothers me in the Tressel/LA scenario is the massive difference in relative impact and repercussions. I suppose the ultimate irony is how so many will pontificate and thump their chest about the evils of LA, all while watching football. The irony would be commical if it were not so sad. BTW – the government should be thrilled at all the postive exposure and marketing the USPS received thanks to those teams. Seriously, take away “rain, nor sleet, nor snow”, the Pony Express and the USPS cycling team and what positives does one associate with the mail?

  3. Scott

    I dont know anything about the other college football situation, I just know you probably have wise thoughts on it. The most I know about college football comes from Friday Night Lights kids moving in the story line.

  4. Pingback: Lance…On Leadership…On Oprah? | Curtisbuck’s Blog

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