Lance Armstrong, Mitt Romney, and the Pitfalls of Trusting a Winner

Lance Armstrong, Mitt Romney, and the Pitfalls of Trusting a Winner
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Everybody loves a winner.

That’s what we have all been told, anyway.  Winners possess the right combination of ambition, motivation, talent, and determination that sets them apart from the rest of their rivals.

Success breeds success.

This phrase is the shorthand version for the theory that past performance is an accurate predictor of future results.  A winner can be counted on to deliver excellence, time and time again.

In the case of Lance Armstrong, dozens of companies wanted to share in his success and paid him millions just for the association.  He helped Trek sell a lot of bicycles.  He influenced the purchases of Nike shoes, Oakley sunglasses, and Giro helmets.  He may have even encouraged people to drink Michelob Ultra, despite its wretched taste…

Mitt Romney experienced a similar career trajectory.

He certainly began life with the requisite talent for being a champion in business.  Wealth.  Political connections.  Access to the best education.  He needed only to exhibit a little ambition, motivation, and determination and he was well on his way to becoming a winner.  He didn't have to look very far to find people willing to trust in him.

Lance and his sponsors traded on implied trust.

We, the American people, believed that Lance was a champion and would therefore trust whatever he endorsed.  Note the past tense – believed.  We put our faith in him because he achieved something remarkable – 7 consecutive Tour de France victories – and we admired that rare combination of traits that led to those accomplishments.

As it turns out, there was one trait that most of us did not see…

Winning at any cost – legal or not, ethical or not, fair or not – is a characteristic that most of us do not believe in.  We don’t share this value.  We do not support an “end justifies the means” approach to success.

Had we known that Lance was doping – not merely suspected it as many skeptical racing fans had – we probably wouldn’t have trusted his judgment with anything else.  If he had been found to be a cheater at any point earlier, he may never have achieved icon status and we would have all been spared the displeasure of sampling a Michelob Ultra.

Mitt Romney promises an equally bad taste in our mouths.

Romney’s business career was built on winning.  He is not an entrepreneur in the traditional sense.  He never invented anything.  He didn’t passionately pioneer a new way of doing things.  He didn’t launch a revolutionary product or introduce a life-changing service.  He was no Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.  He was Gordon Gekko from Wall Street.

In Mitt Romney’s world, winning was the goal.

It didn’t matter to him if a company Bain Capital purchased wound up liquidated in bankruptcy.  Workers could lose their jobs (and collect unemployment, receive food stamps and Medicaid).  Pension funds could fail (and be rescued by the Federal government).  Share values could plummet.  Vendors could go unpaid.  Loans could be defaulted on.  As long as Bain Capital and its investors extracted fees and profited from the transaction, the end clearly justified the means.

Is Mitt Romney’s win at all costs strategy really any different than Lance Armstrong’s?

No and yes.  Both relied on situational ethics – or an outright lack of personal ethics (also called morals) – to secure an unfair advantage over their rivals.  Lance’s rivals were direct competitors on the race course.  Romney’s were other venture capital firms also vying for Bain’s takeover targets.  In this regard, both Lance and Mitt believed that they were doing nothing differently than a rival would do in their respective situations.   Other riders could be doping and concealing it.  Other VC firms would have plans to liquidate a target company.  Someone is going to win, why not me?

Romney’s win at all costs tactics affected far more than just his closest rivals.

He wasn’t content simply to beat another VC firm to the acquisition.  He needed to beat all the stakeholders – the founders, shareholders, management, employees, retirees, vendors, lenders, and governmental bodies - that were part of each target company’s ecosystem.  Bain and its investors had to make out better than every other party to the transaction.  That is the sole reason for Bain entering the game.

Much has been revealed since USADA’s reasoned decision justified to the UCI and the court of public opinion that Lance Armstrong was a cheater of the highest magnitude.

Anecdotal testimony reveals a man who would manipulate supporters and bully those who dare challenge him.  The hearsay evidence shows a man who was nonchalant about his unethical tactics and even reckless with his behavior behind closed doors.

Sadly, the above paragraph could apply to either man…

The revelation of Lance Armstrong as a fraud is very disheartening as an American, a sports fan, and a cycling enthusiast.  But aside from stealing my memories and soiling the reputation of my favorite sport, the only shame I share with Lance is that I believed that Michelob Ultra might actually taste good…

I predict a very bad aftertaste should Mitt Romney become the next POTUS.

Just as I am certain that Lance Armstrong loves his family and truly has a soft spot for those ravaged by cancer, I am equally certain that Mitt Romney loves his family and truly has a soft spot for other wealthy Americans.  Both men will stop at nothing to champion for their own and aren’t bothered by compromising ethics to achieve success.

Winning isn’t everything.

For every winner, there has to be a loser.  One juiced up bike racer besting another or one leveraged buyout specialist outbidding another means nothing to mere spectators in the grand scheme of it all.

When the loser is everyone else but the winner, it’s time to look at all the stakes.

The job of our President is to sit down at the table and represent all the stakeholders.  Every man, woman, and child in America.  Every ethnicity.  Every income level.  Every ability or disability.  Every sexual orientation.  Every faith.  Everyone.  We all deserve to win.  We all deserve equal opportunity.  We don’t mind the challenge when there’s a level playing field.

Character matters.  Lance Armstrong doesn't represent me as a cyclist.  Mitt Romney will never represent me as an American.

Update: For everything written to date on Lance Armstrong, click here and scroll to the bottom of the screen.

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  • fb_avatar

    Good point. We need to trust a proven loser. Vote Obama

  • fb_avatar

    Thanks for this article, Michele. Now get ready to move out of the White House back to bankrupt Chicago.

  • fb_avatar

    I'm sorry to see you just got insubstantial, non-sequitur one-liner responses to your article. I've seen accurate Mitt-Lance comparisons made concerning the debates - cheating by doping, versus cheating by cynical lying up and down and flip-flopping on all positions to etch-a-sketch into "Mitt the Moderate." Romney's lack of ethics and morals deeply troubles me.

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