Confession – I have always carried a quiet fear of the “day”. I knew the moment would come, but had hoped it would not be until I was well into my 50’s. A point when the physical similarities would be long past, that memories would have faded and rancor would be forgotten. No such luck. Those that know me know the issue…I am a Lance Armstrong doppelganger. It has been funny over the years, photo and autograph requests, tons of glances or stares, pointed out in crowds, approached in awkward conversation, yet from time-to-time cluelessly embracing what I thought was just a random act of kindness until my wife would point out “it is the Lance thing dummy”. Now I carry the mantel of “hey, you look like that dude that cheated”.
Due to the combination of my doppleganger issue and my own love affair with cycling, I get asked about the whole Lance/doping/cycling thing quite often. I have even written about it occasionally. However, what I find most important is the reinforcement of that age-old adage of “just be nice“.
What we have seen over the last few weeks is the complete undoing of the “Lance Armstrong” brand. It is a reasonably safe assumption to say no brand has collapsed as quickly or completely. The last 10 days: epic. What is interesting is that he is not alone in what he did. He is however, the literal face of the issue. His record of denial, counter accusations, law suits, personal attacks, and just general reputation as, well to put it mildly, a real jerk, has only feed into the collapse. Lance not only cheated, he was self-righteous about it.
And then there is George Hincapie. Faithful Lieutenant. Trusted teammate. Quiet, resolute, reserved. A strong, tireless, hard worker, and just all around nice guy. Respected by peers and fans, teammates and managers; the man who is resoundingly held up as a guy who did it right. Well, come to find out he, along with almost every other American cyclist who rode with Lance on the US Postal/Discovery Teams, were neck-deep in the doping culture. Yet, as vilified, hated and pilloried as Lance is, barely a word about George. Yes, Lance was the leader, but George was right there with him the whole way. Yet barely a word.
One thing all of this has been is a lesson in relationships, in how one treats others. How one conducts themselves is part of your personal and professional brand. Lance had an incredible professional brand, but also a very well known personal brand. George also had an incredible professional brand as well as a very well liked and respected personal brand. Each have seen their professional brand clobbered, but the impact on their personal brand has been completely different.
In the end, George is seen as just a flat-out great guy…nice, respectful, genuine and sincere. That fact has and will enable him to weather the storm. He will be thought of fondly. His clothing company will survive and more than likely thrive. Lance…well his reputation has all but sealed his fate. He will reside alongside that other poster child of sport shame, Pete Rose.
Just be nice. It never hurts.