When the mighty fall. Cultural leaders behaving badly. Why Lance why?
I have a friend who had a ceremony a few months ago to cut her Live Strong bracelet off her wrist. Having once raised $10,000 to ride with Lance Armstrong, Lance was her idol. She cried when she took off her symbolic bracelet of support with Armstrong’s charity and lifestyle movement. She cycled religiously and would travel to hear him speak about his model of helping others. His now proven accusations of performance enhancing drugs has left her feeling disillusioned and betrayed. She couldn’t believe that he would do that to her. For her, his act was personal. Although I am quite certain he didn’t have my friend (or any of his legions of fans) around when he was making decisions related to his steroid use. As a shrink I know that the surprise is not that someone like Lance Armstrong was using performance enhancing drugs throughout his career, the surprise would have been if he had not. His physical performance was beyond Herculean, and the pressure to win would have been enormous. In a great quote by John Wight who said,
“Armstron’g extraordinary success, magnified in his case by a successful battle with cancer, led to him becoming the prisoner of a public which demands that its sporting heroes jump higher, run faster, punch harder, and cycle faster while conforming to a level of moral purity and rectitude rendered impossible in a culture in which success and human virtue are considered two sides of the same coin.”
I remember when Bill Clinton was being raked over the coals for his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and his subsequent false denial in his now infamous “I did not have sex with that woman” speech. Although as a sex therapist I know about powerful men and baseline sexual conquest addiction, I was still disappointed. I’ve think Bill Clinton is the leader of my generation. I thought the Monica Lewinsky fiasco showed he was human. And that he certainly crossed the line into sexual addiction. We can go on about Martha Stewart, Hugh Grant (and the hooker on Hollywood blvd), and a plenary of other politicians but I think you know what I mean.
Last week the New Yorker did a story about Dr. Oz and many of his questionable medical facts. Sigh. Dr. Oz rocks. He’s incredibly bright, attractive and offers up an interesting mix of traditional medicines and alternative options that have now not necessarily been proven accurate. Et tu Mehmet?
His colleague Dr. Eric Rose, a professor of surgery at the Mount Sinai medical school had this to say when asked directly if they would refer a patient to Dr. Oz.
“No, I wouldn’t. In many respects, Mehmet is now an entertainer. And he’s great at it. People learn a lot, and it can be meaningful in their lives. But that is a different job. In medicine, your baseline need has to be for a level of evidence that can lead to your conclusions. I don’t know how else you do it. Sometimes Mehmet will entertain wacky ideas—particularly if they are wacky and have entertainment value.”
And finally today there is the new that my darling Ray Lewis (the amazing defensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens) may have taken something called “Deer Antler Spray” which contains a banned substance to enhance his healing. I’m rooting for the Baltimore Ravens this weekend primarily because Ray Lewis. You can’t help but wonder if this is his last need to stay in the spotlight. But Ray Lewis! Along with John Cusak, Howie Long, Robert Downey Jr, and Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings, Ray tops my personal bad boy list. You know The List. The one made famous on friends of sex partners you have the “get out of jail free card with if you were ever so propositioned”. And Ray Ray, deer antler spray or not, please proposition me.
So I’m hopeful that Ray Lewis can rise above all the controversy, win the Super Bowl and retire with grace. He’s also welcome to call me anytime for a weekend of debauchery. But the truth is that anyone trying to stay at the top of their game will take extra steps to stay there. Its amazing how we can justify the “means justifies the end” kind of behaviour. It’s also clear that when people tell you that you are the best and rarely say no to you, it’s hard to stay humble.
I think most people will take shortcuts when pressed.I think most people will do incredible things far outside their comfort zone when pressed. As a sex therapist I often see the results of that line sometimes getting blurry. The challenge is to bounce off the rubber room of ethics and larceny in your own head and come out with a clear understanding of temptation. I go through the talk in my head every day about why I need to stay on the straight and narrow when it comes to eating mammoth amounts of chocolate. For Ray, Lance, Bill and the others it may have gotten bigger than them. And these downfalls remind us that we are all human.