Arm‘strong’: An Illustrious Warrior
In a divulgement earlier this year that would not have stupefied many, Lance Armstrong lost his battle to prove that his seven Tour de France titles were pristine. There would be a few close followers of his who would disagree to the fact that he is of one of the stalwarts in changing the way how cancer was perceived. However, the mistake that he committed made him lose everything he fought for after championing in his combat with cancer. Apart from losing his titles & his endorsements, more importantly, he lost most of his ties with his foundation, Livestrong.
Armstrong has been stripped of his seven titles, history books would not present him as a champion and his personality is represented as an epitome of a cheat. This could certainly be quite depressing for anyone. All this can force him to consider asking the earth to open up & swallow him. However, I strongly feel that this ‘can’ would never see the dawn of ‘will’. Lance Armstrong is a man of mettle and he has displayed this quality time & again. “I intend to beat this disease,” he told an English Daily in 1996. “I am 25 years old. I am one of the best in my sport, why would I have cancer? This is something I got stuck with and now have to work through.”
Armstrong has always been a reckless fighter for his competitors. On this basis, people have reached a unanimous conclusion that the cyclist is willing to go to any length possible to win. However, it is for that very reason that I grew to admire Armstrong, and still do. But wait a second, I do not mean in any way that what he did evens out how God had cursed him. What he did was definitely not legitimate & not a good show for the young guns. However, on the other side, the heroics that he has shown in his life & moreover, what he has done for cancer patients cannot be overshadowed. The Livestrong Foundation, with proper assistance from its former chairman, has affected the lives in various ways, of countless cancer patients, survivors, and supporters, only because of being fully committed to the cause.
After putting forward logical arguments to support my view-point, I will now reinforce my point by explaining what was the situation like for the cyclist when he was about to re-enter the cycling arena in 1996-97. A very famous model in the world of strategic decision making – Porters Five Forces Model – has been used for the purpose of analysis, the model being an extremely helpful tool while taking or supporting important decisions. An attempt has been made to make the presentation of this analysis very lucid & easy to discern, even for readers who do not have prior knowledge about the model.
1. Bargaining Power of Buyers
Buyers are the people who buy the product.
When Lance Armstrong was re-entering the cycling arena, his primary buyers were the avid cycling fans. At that time, when Armstrong had all odds against him, the bargaining power of buyers would have been definitely high as buyers would prefer to follow some other champion of that time.
2. Bargaining Power of Suppliers
Suppliers are the people who provide the necessary input to make the product.
The major suppliers for Armstrong were:-
- Doctors & Medical Care Providers
- Amaury Sport Organization
- International Cycling Union (UCI)
Since the cyclist was entering the world of cycling after fighting with cancer, his chances to excel in the sport was not too bright. Hence, the bargaining power of suppliers can be said to have been high.
3. Threat of New Entrants
The new entrants, as the name suggests, are the prospective competitors.
The mid & late 90s had seen an increase in popularity in all sports because of myriad factors. Hence, there were talented young lads lined up to come out of their shell & thereby were posing a high threat to the fighter.
4. Threat of Substitutes
The substitutes are the competitors to the product outside its industry.
Improvement in technology had increased the interest of the people in movies & clubs but it’s difficult to believe a credible substitute for Cycling from the perspective of a Cycling fan. Hence, the threat of substitutes can be considered on a lower side.
5. Industry Competitors
Industry competitors are the competitors in the same industry.
Cut throat competition seemed evident when Armstrong decided to get back into Cycling after his victory in his combat with cancer. Some of the prominent names were Carlos Sastre, Andreas Kloeden, Joseba Beloki, etc.
Before analyzing the situation that Armstrong would have faced, let me state what would be easiest & toughest condition for him.
Easiest: Low for all the five components
Toughest: High for all the five components
Situation facing Armstrong:-
- Bargaining Power of Buyers: HIGH
- Bargaining Power of Suppliers: HIGH
- Threat of New Entrants: HIGH
- Threat of Substitutes: LOW
- Industry Competitors: HIGH
On analyzing the situation of Lance Armstrong on the basis of Porters Five Forces Model, we can catch a glimpse of what the cyclist faced while reentering the cycling arena. Moreover, he went on to establish Livestrong which undertook the onus of affecting the lives of cancer patients. He is a real hero & he certainly deserves respect.
There is also a hue & cry about the issue of ethics regarding the mistake committed by Armstrong. Most people have already made up their minds about him. To some he is the biggest fraud in all of sports. To others he is still a hero and a source of inspiration.
Let me analyze & address this issue on the basis of a basic model of ethics.
The figure drawn above shows a model on the basis of which ethics can be discussed. Let us take up the case of Armstrong. On one side is the liar, cheater and a deceiver who broke the rules of the game. He was incorrect on the part of moral ethics. He can be hated by anyone as much as they want. I do. I hate him for lying and deceiving, and proving that he is a mortal athlete. But this is all for which he may be hated & ethically proven wrong, because on the other side is his cavalier & benevolent personality for which many people, including me, still admire him. I feel it may never be possible for me to do as much, no matter the availability of resources, as he has done for the world with Livestrong.
I know I am writing in favour of a sportsperson whom the cycling fans tag as a cheater, a liar and a disgrace for the sport. The condemnation goes so far that UCI president Pat McQuaid said “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling” and that the American “deserves to be forgotten.” As a gentle reply, I suggest we actually imagine he never doped and never won all that races and in fact, never even existed. He wouldn’t have been an amazing inspiration to people who suffer from cancer. But more importantly (since today it’s all about the money), his foundation raised more than $470 million to support the mission to inspire and empower people affected by cancer. That’s a lot of money. I am sure those people appreciate it and I think that the public image of Lance Armstrong should be more positive due to this.
To summarize, I would say, Lance Armstrong should get the title of ‘hero’, not only because he championed his way through his combat with cancer, but after that the benevolence show that he has put up for the world. He has dedicated so much of his professional life to charity & has been an icon for cancer survivors around the world. This is the reason why I say he will always be a twisted but legendary hero for me.
Published 28 Feb 2013, 14:43 IST