Lance Armstrong: Shame v. Guilt

UC Riverside experts are available to discuss the cyclist’s anticipated admission of guilt

Keeping bicycles secure is an important priority for campus police.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Cycling legend Lance Armstrong for years denied the doping allegations that eventually resulted in the loss of seven Tour de France titles and a Bronze Medal in cycling from the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Now, in an interview with talk-show host Oprah Winfrey scheduled to air tonight, Armstrong may make the statement many people believe is long overdue: an admission of guilt.

In a culture that worships athletes and celebrities, will such an admission matter?

Faculty experts from the University of California, Riverside are available to comment.

David Glidden

David Glidden


David Glidden, professor of philosophy

“Entrepreneurial athletes who are only interested in their own success have no shame precisely because they have no sense of social obligation to others.  They are perfect examples of what Ayn Rand celebrated as the virtue of selfishness.”


Carl Cranor

Carl Cranor

Carl Cranor, distinguished professor of philosophy

“There is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt tends to be self-guilt imposed on oneself for a particular violation of a rule or norm on a particular occasion. For this one makes amends, apologizes, perhaps corrects any injury done to another by the rule violation. In contrast shame ordinarily points not to a one-time rule violation, but to a substantial failure of one as a person, failing to be the kind of person one takes oneself to be or failing to live up to the standards of what people in a particular culture should be. The corrective here may include apologies and correcting for injuries done, but more importantly it is a matter of changing who one was — the deficient person — that brought about the wrongful outcome.”


Derek Burrill

Derek Burrill

Derek A. Burrill. associate professor of media and cultural studies
(951) 827-1261

“When media celebrities (athletes, actors, politicians) fall from grace, an interesting drama unfolds, nearly always with the same structure: accusations, denials, admittance, shame and then forgiveness. But, when these happen at a national level, the 24/7 news cycle (the ‘pre-interview’ interviews Oprah has been giving are an interesting example) tends to manufacture and construct them with the logic of Hollywood films — exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement.  Shame applies in an interesting manner — we’ve managed, as a consuming public, to focus a lot of energy and interest on the shame/fall moment, so that it becomes an extended climax. I think this hints at our generally confused national conversation about what ethics are in a multicultural society.”




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