Lance Armstrong Personality Profile (Psychopathy Personified)


Lance Armstrong on Bike

Since the widespread public exposure of his cheating nearly a decade ago, it’s been pretty clear that former cyclist Lance Armstrong isn’t the nicest or most honest guy that’s even lived. However, in terms of his personality, it’s useful to go deeper than that.

Armstrong is perhaps one of the most cut and dried cases of a psychopath in the public eye. The former winner of seven Tour de France titles, he has now been stripped of these awards due to a proven and admitted program of systematic doping over much of his cycling career.

We say cut and dried because psychopaths in the outside world can indeed only be identified through observing a series of behavior patterns in them over a prolonged period of time which match the definition of a psychopath. Lance Armstrong provided ample such evidence over the years and displayed numerous psychopathic traits, which we will go into in this article.

In very broad and general terms the biggest giveaway of Armstrong’s psychopathic personality was his utterly cold, heartless and ruthless treatment of anyone who accused him or otherwise got in his way during his cycling career. He was prepared to go to any lengths to discredit those who questioned him and did not care for the damage he caused in the lives of others by getting his own way.

This is typical of a psychopath in that they lack conscience and empathy and therefore there is no limit on the lengths to which they will go to silence anyone who may try to expose them. They are utterly incapable of putting themselves in another person’s shoes and therefore cannot comprehend that their actions may have harmed or hurt another. They simply don’t “get it” in this regard. It is about getting from A to B for them and screw anyone else.

There are also many other psychopathic traits which Armstrong displayed which we will go into below. In fact he is in many ways a model psychopath in that he ticks off so many of the traits described by Robert Hare and other experts that the diagnosis of him is pretty much a slam dunk.

The Psychopathic Traits of Lance Armstrong

The personality traits and characteristics of Lance Armstrong which match known traits of psychopathy are so numerous and match so perfectly that they really deserve their own article.

Here we will just run off a quick checklist of some of his personality traits and known behaviors which indicate clear psychopathic tendencies:

  • Utterly ruthless and immoral treatment of others who got in his way or objected to or tried to expose his cheating and dishonesty.
  • Prolonged, repeated and outrageous lying regarding his drug use over a period of many years.
  • Complete lack of remorse for the damage he caused to the lives and careers of others who opposed him. No conscience or guilt evident with regards to the way he treated or harmed others.
  • Despicable treatment of anyone who spoke out against him such as Betsy Andreu and Emma O’Reilly. Happy to spread lies and use smear tactics to try and discredit them.
  • Extremely charming and manipulative and able to isolate and turn opinion against a few renegade journalists and cyclists who questioned Armstrong’s legitimacy.
  • A constant reliance on fear and domination to maintain control. Happy to file lawsuits against anyone who (correctly) exposed his doping.
  • Outrageous denial and inversion of reality – actively moralizing against those who were (correctly) trying to expose him. Part of the “gas-lighting” tendencies of psychopaths as they try to flip reality on its head.
  • An absent relationship with his father and a cold, hostile relationship with his step-father – a common precursor to psychopathy and sociopathy.
  • An arrogant, egotistical, crass personality with no sense of “class” or dignity. Despite being a professional cyclist he had no respect or reverence for the history of the sport. A narrow fixation on winning and dominance only.
  • A huge sense of entitlement.
  • Extremely manipulative and exploitative character, with passive aggressive tendencies and inherent dishonesty which were still evident even when he was supposedly confessing to his doping in 2013.

These are just some of the toxic traits Armstrong demonstrated and we will devote a separate article for examining each of these observations in more detail. Again you will struggle to find in the public eye someone who ticks off so many psychopathic traits as Armstrong does.

Since his exposure and public fall from grace in 2013 the balance of power has shifted somewhat and he is no longer in such a dominant position to be able to attack, discredit and intimidate others as he once was. Therefore some of his behavior appears to have toned down, leading some to questions whether he has truly changed and become remorseful for his actions.

Anyone who has experienced a psychopath in their lives knows how fanciful this idea is. Psychopaths most likely never change and indeed there are body language decoding videos online which reveal Armstrong still had exactly the same personality traits after confessing as before. They may modify their outer behavior to an extent but they never change the core of who they are.

David Walsh on Lance Armstrong’s Downfall

 

Lance Armstrong Brought Down Lance Armstrong

A crucial aspect of the Lance Armstrong story though and one which makes it ultimately uplifting and encouraging for other victims of psychopaths is that ultimately Lance Armstrong’s psychopathic traits are what got him to success (in a ruthless, cold-hearted way) but also what brought him down. In his treatment of others he sowed the seeds of his own downfall and disgrace.

Journalist David Walsh details how this was the case in the video embedded above. He mentions how Lance Armstrong had a ruthless streak and an intelligence, but a more cold, calculating, purely analytical kind of intelligence.

It was not an emotional kind of intelligence and therefore he lacked an ability to see the “bigger picture” of how mistreating certain people would later backfire on him.

A case in point of this that Walsh mentions is Armstrong’s treatment of fellow cyclist Floyd Landis, who won the 2006 Tour de France but was later stripped of the title due to a positive drugs test. A couple of years later Landis reaches out to Armstrong trying to get a ride with his team to try and rebuild his cycling career. Armstrong tells him to get lost.

What he failed to see is that snubbing Landis would make an enemy out of someone who could later bring him down and this is what happened. In retaliation to Armstrong’s rejection, Landis later testified to doping authorities about Armstrong’s drug use and this was arguably the beginning of the end for Armstrong in terms of his lies being exposed.

Armstrong’s way of looking at the world and making decisions was purely analytical and calculating. It was about how to get from A to B right now in the quickest possible way. He could lie or cheat to get through to tomorrow but did not have the ability to see more than a few steps ahead and that eventually all his lies and treatment of others would come back to haunt him.

This is typical of psychopaths, in that they are indeed very clever in a calculating kind of way but that this thinking is still very shallow and one dimensional and lacking in any kind of awareness of the “bigger picture”.

A psychopath can relate to having to shut person X up today to make their life easier but cannot at all grasp an idea like “what goes around comes around” and that something they impulsively do today will come back to get them several years down the line.

Elsewhere Armstrong also went up against certain people who knew how powerful he was but were not intimidated by his bullying tactics and were relentless in their pursuit of truth. David Walsh is top of this list in that he was suspicious of Armstrong right from when he won his first Tour in 1999 and never stopped chasing the story and exposing evidence of his doping until his eventual downfall in 2012.

In doing this Walsh suffered intimidation, ridicule, legal action and ostracism from riders, fellow journalists and members of the public. He still stuck to his guns throughout this period and was eventually vindicated, showing his fellow professionals that one needn’t be intimidated or bullied into submission by anyone no matter how much power they may seem to wield.

Betsy Andreu was another person who was not frightened of Armstrong and was happy to go up against him by publicly exposing his lies. She and her cyclist husband Frankie Andreu also suffered consequences for speaking out but were also vindicated, showing that there are a select few people who will always stand up for their principles against the intimidation and bullying of psychopaths like Armstrong.

What Goes Around Comes Around (Karma)

The Lance Armstrong scandal does send out an encouraging message to other victims of psychopaths that what goes around does indeed come around and the way people treat others in life does come back round to them eventually. Maybe not the next week, the next month, or even the next year, but it does seem that karma comes back to a person eventually.

After the scale of his doping was irrefutably exposed and punished, Armstrong was forced to confess to years of lying and bullying, and also issued apologies to many of those he damaged along the way. He was banned for life from cycling and forced to settle many legal disputes over prize money he had earned fraudulently over his career through his cheating and lying.

David Walsh and Emma O’Reilly reacting to the Lance Armstrong confession on Oprah

 

However, it is true that even during his Oprah confession, he displayed toxic micro-expressions typical of psychopaths – that duping delight smirk that’s common whenever they lie or confess to something. Here’s Walsh’s observation on this, from the video just above:

“Oprah would ask him a question, and the answer that he was going to give was going to diminish him in the eyes (of others) because he was making an admission of something…..and just before he gave the answer you could see a smirk just flash across his face and you thought ‘did that guy smirk there?’. And he did.

And he didn’t want to do that. It was like an involuntary reaction, a tick, and obviously the guy has got personality issues”.

David Walsh

This kind of smirking is evident of the contempt and arrogance psychopaths have towards others, especially when forced to admit to wrongdoing. Interested readers can consult our article on duping delight for more on this. See also the video below for more detailed analysis of Armstrong’s toxic body language around the time of the Oprah confession:

Duping Delight

LieStrong – Body language of Lance Armstrong decoded

 

It is true that many victims of psychopaths never get such an open and public retribution and justice dealt to them for the way they were treated by them. The advice most people give regarding psychopaths is to cut off all contact permanently and one downside to this is we never get to see their inevitable exposure and comeuppance for the way they have treated people down the line.

This particular case was played out in the public eye and so gives us a glimpse of how the lives of all psychopaths likely play out in the end, since no one can lie, cheat, bully and abuse into the future forever and not have it come back to them eventually. Eventually the truth will catch up to them.

Has He Really Changed?

Armstrong has made quite a few public appearances since his fall from grace, taking part in numerous charity cycling events and conducting several large scale interviews and presentations. See here for instance for a 2 hour interview he did on the Joe Rogan Podcast.

However perhaps most revealing comment he has made is from an interview he conducted in early 2015, two years after his downfall. The link to the full interview is here; however we have embedded a specific portion of the interview where he admits that, despite regretting how he treated others along the way, given the chance he would probably cheat again if he were placed back in that same era.

 

In other words, he doesn’t regret that he cheated; he has always argued that he wasn’t really cheating because everyone else was doing the same at that time. He expresses an apparent regret for the way he bullied and trampled over anyone that got in his way. He took his fighting instincts too far, as he says in the full length interview.

However, this seems like a nonsense argument on several fronts. Firstly, he could not have got away with his doping for so long had he not gone to such ruthless lengths to suppress anyone who tried to question or expose him.

The idea you could somehow have had the cheating without the bullying and got away with it for any length of time seems ridiculous. The two went hand in hand as the lie always needs covering up and “renewing” whilst the truth does not.

Secondly, this admission that he doesn’t regret the cheating and would do it again is indicative of the lack of moral barometer (we would call this conscience) as to what is right and wrong that is famously missing from psychopaths. Dishonest behavior such as this is always rationalized as “everyone’s doing it” or “it was necessary to compete” or something similar.

It seems far more reasonable to assume that, given the same circumstances, he would both cheat again and do whatever was necessary to cover up the cheating again.

Thirdly, I’m personally still not convinced of his sincerity by his body language and choice of words. There still seems to be an awful lot of smirking, plus constant excuses and rationalizations. I see the correct words being said some of the time, bur I still don’t really sense any contrition or humility from him.

David Walsh also put the cheating issue into perspective when he asks what we would say to our own daughters and sons if they were placed in this dilemma where they had to take illegal performance enhancing drugs to properly compete in a sport.

Most people with a sense of conscience and ethics would say they have to come home and find a new way to make a living, however much it may hurt at first to give up something they love.

Whether one cheats in a sport is not down to some compromise of “I have to do this to survive”. There are plenty of ways to make a living. It comes down to a choice that someone makes inside themselves. What use is success in any field if it is built on lies and the ruined careers of others who would not tow the line? Characters such as Armstrong don’t get this, even seemingly after his downfall.

David Walsh succinctly offered his opinion on whether Armstrong was truly sorry for his actions, at least towards him, in the embedded interview with Emma O’Reilly: “I think he was sorry he got caught”. He also adds in his book Seven Deadly Sins that he does not believe for one minute that the apology Oprah Winfrey got out of him in the famous confession interview was sincere either:

Backed into a corner (in the Oprah interview), he chose to surrender.’I’d apologize to David’ he says.

There are certain sentences you never expect to hear.

Not that I was expecting the phone to ring or anything…….I’m sure that Armstrong doesn’t for one second believe he owes me an apology. From conversations he has had with mutual acquaintances since the interview, I know he still feels deeply antagonistic towards Travis Tygart and me. I understand this. Lance being Lance, still needs someone to blame.

David Walsh

In fairness some of the embedded interviews are now almost a decade old and it may be that time has softened Armstrong. The Joe Rogan interview is a little more recent. Here is a selection of some of his other interviews on YouTube. He can come across as very charming and amicable but this is exactly what manipulative people are so good at.

Anyone can change their outer behavior if there is enough incentive and pressure to do so. The track record however for psychopathic characters changing the person they are on a fundamental core level is not very good. It is well known that the Cluster B personality disorders (of which Antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy is one) are considered pretty much incurable and un-treatable, especially for psychopathy. The best that can be hoped for is that many years of intensive psychotherapy may produce modest changes in outer behavior, but not core personality.

I somehow doubt that Armstrong has spent much of the past decade in a therapist’s office, but opinion will always be divided on whether Armstrong really means what he says.

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