Friday, 18 January 2013

Is Lance Armstrong a psychopath? His performance on Oprah would suggest he is

The defining characteristic of psychopaths is that they have no conscience. It’s not that they don’t know they’re doing wrong, it’s that – apart from the fear of punishment – they simply don’t care. When psychopaths eventually “apologise” for their crimes – usually in the hope of lessening their punishment – what disgusts the rest of us (well, apart from compassion-junkie liberals, of course) is that the suffering of their victims simply doesn’t matter to them. They are utterly devoid of empathy: all that matters to them is their own perceived suffering.

Psychopaths’ monstrous disregard for others is demonstrated by their endless appeals to the European Court of Human Rights – and any other daffy liberal organisation stupid enough to give them the time of day – to complain about their vile treatment at the hands of the criminal justice system. For instance, William Beggs, in prison for raping and dismembering an 18-year old boy prior to dumping his victim’s limbs in Lock Lomond and his head in the sea, was awarded £4,800 by the ECHR last month because the Scottish courts had failed to hear his appeal in “reasonable time”. Ah, diddums!

I was vaguely reminded of William Beggs – and many other raping, murdering, torturing, scum-sucking monsters who are utterly incapable of feeling remorse – while watching Lance Armstrong’s performance on Oprah (available here). I’ve seen people express more genuine regret for having inadvertently jumped a supermarket queue. Armstrong isn’t (as far as we know) a rapist, murderer or torturer. And it’s easy to agree with his oft-repeated description of himself as “flawed”. (He made it sound like the sort of slight imperfection one might find in an otherwise perfect gemstone. “We all have our flaws,” he added. See? He’s just like you or me!)

But there was no hint that the wretched man has even begun to take responsibility for his years of lying and cheating, for the harm he has done to his sport, for pressuring other riders to become criminals, for making the world a more sordid and disappointing place in the eyes of millions around the globe, and for bringing shame on his country. And he evidently couldn’t give a fig for all the people he’s sued for telling the truth about him.

Armstrong knows he’s done wrong. He just doesn’t seem to care. If he has a conscience, it's extremely well hidden.

Most of the interview supported the psychopath theory, but the four bits that stood out for me were the following: his attempt to blame “momentum” and his bout of testicular cancer for his continuing use of performance-enhancing drugse (huh?) – psychopaths invariably blame outside forces for “making them do it”; his negative response to the question of whether, at the time he was racking up titles, he felt bad about using drugs to win; his simmering resentment against the US Anti-Doping Agency (after all, lots of convicted psychopaths hate the police and the people who give evidence against them); and his claim that he had to look up the word “cheat” in a dictionary to check what it meant – I doubt whether someone with a functioning conscience would have had to do that.

At one point in the interview, Armstrong assured us that he'd spend the rest of his life "trying to earn back trust and apologise to people".

Pity he won’t be spending the rest of it in jail.


  1. I’ve seen people express more genuine regret for having inadvertently jumped a supermarket queue.

    Hahaha... had quite a chuckle on that :)
    That being said, I think he's psychopath too.

    1. Damian Thompson agrees with us in the Telegraph today: "This is a man who, when he wasn’t cycling, devoted his time to his really serious hobby of trashing the reputations of anyone who questioned him, and scaring into silence many other people who knew the truth. I’ve met sociopaths and I recognise the signs."

  2. Martin Samuel nails the point about the dictionary definition of "cheat" in the Mail Online today.

    There's a remorse formula at work here. Detection > Reflection > Cautious and Nuanced Admission > Identification of a means of public contrition (Oprah in this case). Next stages will be > "It's time to move on" > A photo Op of lessons for young paralympic cycing hopefuls > "I'm putting my live back together/sympathy for my children" > Resumption of lucrative endorsements.

    Other than Savile-like activity, what exactly to do you have to do these days to be publicly disgraced?

    1. The answer, as you suggest, is that you have to be convicted of paedophilia, up to, and including, using rent boys, to face universal opprobrium. Hate crime nearly makes the grade. Criticising the NHS is borderline. Anything else, apparently, goes. I've always thought that shame was a useful emotion, and look forward to its return some day.

      I'm still wondering why Armstrong didn't use the Sarah Ferguson ploy of referring to oneself in the third person when caught doing something grossly immoral - i.e. "Lance was in a bad place at that time". Maybe he'll start doing it during the next part of his "journey".

      Of course, he could ignore the path to public rehabilitation altogether and launch a new range of signature Performance-Enhancing Drugs instead.

  3. ex- KCS. "...what exactly to do you have to do these days to be publicly disgraced?"

    Be caught coming out of a cinema showing the Miserables or the Hobbitt, for a start.

  4. SDG. That has made my day. Thanks. I have even less intention now than I might have had before of seeing either, which reduces the it to around minus 7, coincidentally the temperature of my operating boiler- free house.

    Reverting to the earlier theme of the Bonzos and witty songs, The Blogmeister has ignored my request for a post. So let me start by suggesting "Jiggery Pokery" by The Duckworth Lewis Method. As a cricket fan, you will pick up that it is a song about the world's greatest ever test match delivery sung fron the perspective of Mike Gatting.

    1. Frank Duckworth, one half of the statistical due who came up with the famous method, was on Christmas University Challenge, representing his old alma mater, Liverpool University. I'm always surprised to discover that people who give their names to statistical or economic modelling tools (or whatever the correct term is) aren't long-dead 19th century pioneers - for instance, I was astonished when the Laffer of "curve" fame appeared one day on Fox News, alive and kicking and not particularly old.

      My problem with comic songs is that the music is almost invariably dreadful, and I'd struggle to find enough examples of the genre to fill a post. But I promise to do my best and produce something in the near future. I could fill it with The Barron Knights' greatest hits - but I fear that would not satisfy your lust for mirth.

  5. I suppose the key about winning isn't about beating down opponents but get what you want.