How would you feel if Lance Armstrong joined your community?

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Lance Armstrong, the cyclist who returned from cancer to seemingly win 7 Tour de France titles amidst many allegations of drug taking along the way.  He reacted to those allegations in an aggressive manner, seeking to destroy and discredit those who dared stand against him.  The tactic worked until the weight of evidence became too great and he engineered the sickly tell-all to Oprah Winfrey last month.

It’s a story I’m sure most of you are familiar with.  What you probably aren’t so familiar with is the cycling social network Strava.  Strava has a simple yet ingenious premise.  It invites members to upload the GPS data from their rides (and runs) to the site.  It then ranks users against one another for particular segments.  So you can see for instance how you rank on your favourite local hill.  The quickest rider is crowned the King of the Mountain.

The site is mainly the preserve of amateurs, although now and then pros and ex pros crop up on the site and duly blow everyone else away with their speed.  I’m sure most amateurs would be quite happy to pit themselves against the riders they admire.  The thing is, Bloomberg revealed this week that Lance himself has joined the site.  Not only has he joined, he’s joined in bullish mood, with his profile biog stating:

“According to my rivals, peers, and teammates I won the Tour de France 7 times.”

lance armstrong on strava

Michael Horvath, CEO of Strava, has said that no steps will be taken to remove Armstrong from Strava, and initial indications seem to suggest that he’s using the site more for running than cycling.

How would you respond if a disgraced someone from your industry turned up on your community?


12 thoughts on “How would you feel if Lance Armstrong joined your community?

  1. Wow. He just never learns, does he? To use that bio, when he has admitted to being a liar and a cheat – words fail me. I read the Chronicle article and it said he joined in 2011, when he was still beating his chest. If it were me, I would at least change the bio and try to act a little more humble, talk to people, etc.

    I have to think more about your question, in terms of whether or not I would actually leave. I don't think he should be banned, though. That would be a very slippery slope for Strava to tread. If there is some element of community policing (I'm not familiar with the site since I'm not a cyclist), it will be interesting to see what that results in.

    • Thanks for stopping by Shonali. He's certainly a 'complex' character, to say the least. It does present an interesting dilemma for the Strava management though, when they have such a polemic character as a member of their community.

      You can easily picture them hoping that the fuss surrounding him will blow over and he doesn't become an active member of the community.

  2. Well, I don't know Adi. In a way, I would never have heard of Strava had you not written this piece, and I am from the school where bad publicity is often better than no publicity at all. In other words, it gets people to talk about the platform, so unless Lance Armstrong engages in bullying online or unacceptable behavior, where's the problem? Sure, the dude will be facing lots of judicial problems due to his numerous lies throughout the years, but until proven guilty, he's still allowed to have a life.
    I know, it's not that simple, yet…


    • Hi Frederic. I suppose the issue could be whether the presence of a controversial character (in this case Lance Armstrong) causes friction in a community where none previously existed. I mean most communities ban political discussions for instance because they tend to divide communities that were previously united.

      It seems as though LA has deleted his profile to a large extent so it's unlikely to become an issue for Strava to worry about.

  3. That's a shame @Martin. I wouldn't ban him from the site nor would I mind if he was part of any community that I was in. I'm not defending his morals in any way. whatever they might be. It's bad to lie and bad to keep on lying. But to start pointing fingers and claiming that his actions have somehow damaged you (the average man/woman in the street) is beyond ridiculous. If you bought his books or sponsored products and they motivated you – they motivated you – you can't return that. You got what you needed at the time… and if it turns out that they were great works of fiction well then they were good reads even for that purpose. Worse things going on in the world to be concerned about to be honest.

    • I think you're largely right Kittie. Despite being a keen cyclist myself I'm not really that bothered by what Armstrong did. Indeed my favourite cyclist is/was Marco Pantani, a man that was steeped in doping.

      Nevertheless though there will be many that have strong reactions to Armstrong as he does polarise opinion between those that support him, and those that fervently oppose him. The ones in the middle that don't really mind either way are the silent majority if you will.

      I suppose the question for any community therefore is would you want someone present that is likely to cause friction amongst your existing members by splitting some along for/against lines. If the strength of a community is in the unity and shared values that members have, this can be a serious thing.

      • I think we have a similar view on this from a personal perspective.

        Running a community is always like walking a tightrope. There are always dramas to manage. All you can do is take your personal feelings out of any given situation and make your decisions based on the good of the community at large in alignment with the goals and mission of that community.

        Even removal or not of a person in this context is going to cause friction. If managed correctly, you'll get a win for the community as a whole, but the management is not the one decision, it's the management of the fallout once that decision is made. Unfortunately we live in a polarized world and you can't please everyone!

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