This is a cautionary tale about how not to run a cautionary tale.

Far be it for me to advise breweries on how to sell beer. Look around - try central Auckland in the wee hours - and they seem exceedingly good at it. But Lion Breweries selling beer by portraying American cyclist Lance Armstrong as a "cautionary tale"? Holy moly, has the world gone mad?

During his visit here, Armstrong has been misrepresented by some as a little old drugs cheat who is not being allowed to get on with his life. Reality check folks. Armstrong was beyond a simple drugs cheat. The man was an evil empire.

If this was the real world, not the advertising world, the film would be about a man who still wriggles out of genuinely accepting responsibility for trampling over anyone in the illegal pursuit of power and glory.


Armstrong was more than happy to wreck lives, and he has shown little to nothing of what most of us would call genuine remorse for actions that were often unforgivable. He happily used cancer, charity, whatever, for his own illicit cause.

Armstrong is to my mind a lesson in rampant narcissism, as in he has a personality disorder. His war on opponents, those exposing his cheating, was despicable. Assisted by lawyers, he intimidated, abused and crushed to protect his image and conceal the lies.

His eventual confessions were forced and hollow, starting with the cringe-inducing TV appearance with Oprah Winfrey. Drugs in sport can be a world of blurred lines. Yes, the transgressors are cheats. But they aren't simply bad people as such. Armstrong though was a very nasty piece of very powerful work, in a category all of his own.

The trail of destruction includes people like Mike Anderson, Armstrong's former friend and mechanic, who once wrote: "... my real problem [with Armstrong] is something that diehard fans seem unable to grasp: the vengeful tactics he uses against people who tell the truth about him, on and off the bike."

In the 2012 article for Outside, Anderson - so traumatised that he escaped to New Zealand - recounts the attacks Armstrong mounted against those attempting to expose his sporting fraud. The victims include a teammate's wife, Betsy Andreu, who was savaged as an "ugly, obese, jealous, obsessed, hateful, crazed bitch". (as she put it).

Armstrong had filed an employment-related suit against Anderson, who says: "As the struggle unfolded over weeks and months, many people sneered at my story, assuming that Armstrong - Tour [de France] hero, cancer survivor, philanthropist - would never fight dirty or lie, so I had to be the dishonest party. I suddenly had a lot of former friends, no job, no money, and a gaping hole in my professional reputation."

Armstrong was a scumbag who fought dirty, dirty, dirty. And for a lesson in finding redemption, his manipulations are a lesson in what not to do. Finding inner peace, for most people, involves more honesty than he has shown.

Even now, the prospect of an apology to Stephen Swart - the former Kiwi rider who was among the first to unmask Armstrong - comes across as an unconvincing afterthought.


A Lion Breweries staff email, on friendly first name terms with Lance, reckoned: "We are using Lance to tell a cautionary tale called 'The Consequence', which depicts how much you stand to lose when you pursue success at all costs."

I don't think Lion actually understands what it is dealing with. This is a case of how much other people stand to lose when they get in the way of a vicious maniac pursuing success at all costs. Once a narcissist, always a narcissist. And Lance is still peddling another mask for the world to buy.