The Ethicist, Chuck Klosterman, was asked
It was recently demonstrated by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs during the seven years when he won the Tour de France. During the same period, Armstrong started Livestrong, a cancer-support organization known for its ubiquitous yellow bracelets. Is the unethical nature of Lance’s doping offset by the fact that his Livestrong organization has touched many lives in a positive way? Is it even right to consider Livestrong in our ethical analysis of Armstrong’s doping? MYRIAH JAWORSKI, WASHINGTON
The specific ethical problem with Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs is debatable. What’s less debatable are the unethical extensions of that behavior, the treatment of his teammates and his willingness to perpetuate a conspiracy that willfully deceived his supporters. But that’s not really your inquiry. What you’re asking is how we’re supposed to weigh the many bad things Armstrong did against the very good charity he created.
This is ultimately a question about motive. A cynic might argue that even Armstrong’s involvement with Livestrong was self-serving, since its beneficence made people want to believe he was not lying about his own impropriety. Yet this is mere speculation. We don’t know Armstrong’s true motives, and we clearly can’t believe whatever he claims those motives were. All we can do is work with the accepted reality: Armstrong helped the lives of many cancer victims by being the most talented cheater within a sport where cheating is rampant. Now, does that positive conclusion “offset” the unethical exploits that allowed it to occur? I would say it does not. And I say this because they are too interdependent to isolate and judge. There is no right or wrong way to feel about Armstrong, but however you feel should be based on the totality of his career. Everything has to matter.
(click here to continue reading The Lance Armstrong Conundrum – NYTimes.com.)
Hmmm, Livestrong wouldn’t even exist without Lance Armstrong cheating and lying his way to multiple Tour de France titles, and yet…
What do you think? It isn’t a clear cut question as, for instance, continuing to support Susan G Komen For the Cure of Right Wing Women despite their clear political stance, or even for that matter, enjoying Alfred Hitchcock movies despite knowing he was probably an abusive, predatory man.
Full disclosure, I have never signed up for Livestrong, but I do use their online nutritional database periodically to look up information about food I am eating – it is a good resource.