It's tempting to look smugly down our noses and find satisfaction in Lance Armstrong's downfall. Yes, he used illegal drugs to gain a competitive advantage in the sport of cycling. He had plenty of company. What bothers us as much as the "juicing" is the steady train of deception he fobbed off on us fans who followed his career with such interest. We feel duped and disappointed. We wanted a hero who not only beat cancer, but who also beat the world's best cyclists on a fair and level playing field to achieve what no other athlete had achieved. Now he joins the sad and sorry ranks of so many elite athletes whose desire to win drove them to dishonesty.
But set all self-righteousness aside, and ask whether or not there's a little bit of Lance in each of us. Few of us are world-class athletes, or world class anything, for that matter. Yet we too live and work in environments where the temptation to cut corners to gain a competitive advantage over others is ever present.
Let me point a finger at my own part of the world: academia. A spate of recent articles reports the rise in fudged or fraudulent data. Many academicians work in publish or perish institutions, where competition for grants and funding is fierce, places to publish esoteric scholarship few, and where promotion and tenure depend on the length of your CV. The drive to be part of the academic elite has even trickled down to the student level. Students "juice" by using Adderall and other stimulants to heighten focus and to lengthen the time they can devote to study. And the articles chronicling the growth in cheating in our schools indicate that the cheaters are in the majority. It looks as though the competitive juices (and ...1