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Posted: November 07, 2012

I knew Lance Armstrong

Think about your choices before you have to make them

Traci Brown

If you pay attention to current events, you know that Lance Armstrong lost all his Tour de France titles last month due to proof of using performance-enhancing drugs.

I spent 12 years as a competitive cyclist, and I grew up around Lance. We raced on the same bike shop team during our teenage years in Texas and were in the Team USA program together. We were never close, but it was easy to see that he was a ferocious competitor. He was going to do whatever it took to win, and I know that his drive never diminished over the years.

In my corporate talks, I always connect with the audience by telling them about my cycling career. Sometimes during my talks and usually after them, people ask me about the performance-enhancing drug problem in cycling and whether I think Lance is guilty.

Unfortunately, the culture of the sport demanded he do what he did just to keep up. At the top levels of cycling, the 2 percent advantage that drugs will give you is what it takes to compete. And with a lifetime of effort and millions of dollars at stake, and at the time with virtually no chance of being caught (and only a slap on the wrist as possible punishment) I'm sure the decision wasn't a hard one.

Most of his competition was doing the same thing he was and it wasn't a secret to anyone outside of the sport. Over the years as the game changed and as tests were taken more seriously, he was just savvy enough to figure out how to beat the system. Now with the charade over, he's left holding the bag for decades of drug abuse in the pro cycling ranks.

As I think back on the victories he took from my friends and think about the victories that were stolen from me by girls who I knew weren't racing clean, I began to think about the choices he and many others have made. There may be a lesson in this for us all.

When you're in the thick of a tough situation, where a little edge will put you over the top, it's too late to decide to cheat. Take the time now to decide what your values are and what you stand for. Do you even know what you stand for?   Is it worth all the spoils of winning if you can't live with yourself afterwards? Maybe you'll be tested in your career, your relationship or investments. Maybe it's just with your golf game.

In a world where victory and material things are a huge measure of success, it's hard to look inside and know that possibly stepping back from a situation that's not right can bring you a different kind of fulfillment.

I hope that you are never in a situation where you're tempted to go over the line of right and wrong, but a little conversation with yourself now about what you're committed to will prevent trouble later.

As for me, I made the decision long ago not to touch those drugs. I retired – not as outwardly successful as I could have been – but happy knowing I put in 100 percent.

Now cycling is just a fun way to keep fit. So when you see me out on my bike riding just for fun, be sure to wave.

Traci Brown is a persuasion expert, professional speaker and author of Mastering Magical Persuasion. Get your copy today only at

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Readers Respond

Perhaps another lesson is to avoid professions where the chance of success is very low without unethical behavior. While Lance Armstrong may have used drugs to win the Tour seven times, the second place finishers in each of those tours have admitted using drugs, been caught by drug tests, or been implicated in a drug scandal. At least during those years, drug use appears to have been a part of professional cycling. Would Armstrong have won without drugs? There is no way to know, but I suspect his chances would not have been good. There is also something to learn about having rules where there is not an effective way to measure compliance. People will cheat, and then others will feel pressured to cheat, too. By John Unruh on 2012 11 12
Thanks for the kind words everyone. Glad you enjoyed it! By Traci Brown on 2012 11 11
I'm glad I read your whole article instead of the opening paragraphs. Your comment on how the "the culture of the sport DEMANDED..." sounds like he had no other choice. You are spot on with your advice to think about those choices early. Will I put that lunch with my wife as a business expense? Think about it early. You also said. "In a world where victory and material things are a huge measure of success..." I hope that victory and material things are not your only definition of success. It's a shallow, thoughtless and dangerous way to think in my mind. Mother Theresa was a success. Lance got those victories and continues to have significant material rewards from them., but in my mind he is a failure to himself and all who cheered him on. A new definition of success is needed today. I trust your piece will help us all reconsider their own definition. By Scott Holzschuh on 2012 11 07
Great article. It made me think there are Lance Armstrongs in every facet of our society. Not bad people, just focused on the wrong things and for the wrong reasons. And we perpetuate this cycle with our young children. Somewhere we lost the value of our values. But thank you for being a shining star where you can celebrate in doing it right rather than in what trophies sit on your shelf gathering dust. You are a stronger person for it and carry something more valuable all the days of your life - your spirit and your soul. By Heather on 2012 11 07
Great piece. Thanks for giving me something to think about this morning. By Karen Brady on 2012 11 07
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