By Jane Balvanz, MSE, RPT
Professional School Counselor

A movie director was shooting Mean Girls 2. His leading starlet was having difficulty projecting the haughty ruthlessness he assumed came naturally to teenage girls. He turned to his assistant and said, “She needs some motivation for this part! Who can I get to coach her to emote the savage brutality girls use to threaten and intimidate each other? I’m thinking ruined reputations! I’m thinking emotional evisceration!”

The assistant answered, “Sir, have you considered Lance Armstrong?”

The prelude to Lance’s “coming out” party with Oprah started with an onslaught of articles discussing his preponderance on telling the truth about doping. It was like a promise ring before the engagement ring. I thought this method of coming clean quite curious, yet it was excellent marketing. One article in particular made me sit up straight and shout, “Holy smoke! Not only has this guy lied and cheated, but he also used doping and relational aggression to push, peddle, and pound his way to the top! He’s nothing but a bully!” My thoughts were confirmed when Oprah later asked him, “Were you a bully?” Affirmative.

And, it was so calm the way he answered. He said he would apologize. He had apologized to some. Would this be enough? Let’s examine the wreckage.

1) Betsy Andreu, wife of cyclist Frankie Andreu, in 1996 overheard Armstrong tell a physician that he had used performance-enhancing drugs. This took place in Armstrong’s hospital room when he was battling cancer. It was assumed that those in the room would adhere to a code of silence. Betsy did not, though. Under deposition, she told what she knew years later. It didn’t turn out well for her. Andreu told Sports Illustrated writer Austin Murphy the following:

I was painted as bitter, jealous, vindictive. Reporters would use those words, and I wouldn’t be called for a rebuttal. Then, down in the comments section, readers would just be going off on me. And the people who employed Frankie would see it, and it would reflect badly on him. The sentiment from the teams that hired him was, “This publicity is not good for the sport. Why can’t she just be quiet?”

2) Frankie Andreu, former team member of Armstrong, admitted to doping in 1999.  He rode the Tour de France clean in 2000.  This wasn’t well taken by Johan Bruyneel, the team director.  He chided Frankie for not being strong enough, while Armstrong told him to get serious.  Since Frankie refused to dope, he was fired from the team.  Formerly Lance’s friend, Frankie had this to say:

I’ll never be able to know what phone calls he made. I’m sure I didn’t get jobs, and lost jobs. I can’t pinpoint Lance as the reason why I didn’t get this, this, this, and this… but he has influence.

3) Mike Anderson, Armstrong’s former assistant and bike mechanic, fell out of grace and for years was shunned and vilified by his former boss.  He had this to say:

He gave me the firm, hard push and a shove. Made my life very, very unpleasant. It was an embarrassment for me and my family to be portrayed as liars, to be called a disgruntled employee, implying there was some impropriety on my part. It just hurt. It was completely uncalled for.

Cocooning Popularity

Lance trashed so many more reputations on the way to the top.  If you were in, you played the game while looking the other way.  That, or you didn’t look.  If you were first in and then out, you were dangerous.  You knew.  One way or another, you had to be destroyed, because you could damage the cocoon that wraps the dream inside.

And, don’t we cocoon popularity?  If we’re part of it, we like to wrap it up nice and tight and be one of the insiders. It’s heady to be part of a winning team.  Whether we’re 9 or 99, we like to run with the cool kids.  The race can change us, though, if we choose to lose sight of who we are.  If relational aggression is life altering for adults, what chances do kids have against it?

Lance as a Lesson

Use the example of Lance Armstrong’s rise and fall as a tool to teach about relational aggression.  Help them examine what makes up a hero.  Lance started out as a man with a dream.  He was focused, dedicated, and kept his eye on the prize.  He beat cancer.  He beat the other cyclists.  Then he lost his way.

Armstrong pulled off an international coup for a decade or more while mowing down anyone in his path.  He used relational aggression all the way – character assassination, rumors, threats, backstabbing, crazy making, intimidation, and many cases of “bad memory.”  He lied repeatedly.  He ostracized those who could tarnish his trophies.

Take this example and use it to draw parallels to experiences in your child’s life.  Ask provoking questions.

  • Who is popular in your school?
  • What does “popular” mean to you?
  • To be popular, what do you have to do?
  • What would you do to be popular?
  • What would you never do to be popular?
  • What is a hero?
  • Who is your hero?  Why?
  • What decisions did Lance make that were helpful?
  • What decisions did Lance make that were harmful?
  • How was Lance a bully?
  • Could you forgive Lance?  Why or why not?

Lance Armstrong made some grave and ruthless mistakes.  Is it possible that he could change his ways, make amends, and receive forgiveness?  I hope so, because that would be heroic.

Read more on Lance Armstrong’s bullying here.

© 2013 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE?

You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Bullying strategists Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish GAPRA’s bi-weekly articles. If you’re ready to guide children in grades K – 12 through painful friendships and emotional bullying:

For help with emotional bullying: www.GAPRAconnect.com

For the When Girls Hurt Girls® program: www.AWayThrough.com

Lance trashed so many more reputations on the way to the top.  If you were in, you played the game while looking the other way.  That, or you didn’t look.  If you were first in and then out, you were dangerous.  You knew.  One way or another, you had to be destroyed, because you could damage the cocoon that wraps the dream inside.

And, don’t we cocoon popularity?  If we’re part of it, we like to wrap it up nice and tight and be one of the insiders. It’s heady to be part of a winning team.  Whether we’re 9 or 99, we like to run with the cool kids.  The race can change us, though, if we choose to lose sight of who we are.  If relational aggression is life altering for adults, what chances do kids have against it?