Confucius and the Tour de France
By Dr. Henry Wong Meng Yeong | Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 3:28AM
There's a Warren Buffett-sounding Chinese idiom (水落石出) that means when the tide ebbs, stones will be exposed. When the tide turned on Lance Armstrong, uncovering irrefutable evidence of his doping conspiracy, it became apparent that his professional cycling career was but a well orchestrated and choreographed deception.
Millions around the world, once mesmerized by Armstrong, were left disappointed and shocked by the doping confessions of his former team mates, and the overwhelming evidence that he was a cheat and a liar.
Confucius warns that before trusting, one can easily be mislead if one fails to match words with conduct. To judge character, Confucius states that if you look closely at a person's aims, observe the means by which he pursues them, and examine what brings him contentment, his real character cannot be hidden from you.
Armstrong's aim was to win the Tour de France at all cost, not just for the fame and glory but also the financial rewards from prizes, endorsements and sponsorships. He pursued his aim through systematic doping, and as a leader he coerced his team into joining in. Anyone who spoke against the cheating was intimidated and expelled. Armstrong found contentment, and boasted of winning 10-0 in his litigation spree against critics who tried to expose his doping conspiracy. He even intimidated French cyclist Christophe Bassons, who spoke up against doping but whom Armstrong then ostracized, which eventually led to Bassons quitting the sport.
Applying the three guidelines suggested by Confucius, one would not have been deceived by Armstrong. But misjudging his character has left some unfortunate lasting consequences.
His cheating is now exposed and the tainted victories have not only tarnished the reputation of his team, sport, and country, but have also deprived honest cyclists of ever wearing the yellow jersey. A misplaced trust in Armstrong has resulted in doping claims by fellow cyclists and innocent whistleblowers being dismissed as mendacious. Some of them even faced libel suits. How could anyone who had a hand in condemning these innocent victims ever make amends?
Confucius' exhortation for Lance Armstrong would be that riches and fame are what every man desires. But if they cannot be obtained by proper and honest means, they are best relinquished.