This took me 38 minutes to write from start to finish. Sometimes I even amaze myself. Chapter 4 of my textbook contained the background about Maslow and the Expectancy Theory.
Tour de Psychobabble Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Chapter 4
For Lance Armstrong, his surviving testicular cancer and his motivation to win seven consecutive Tours de France can be explained either through Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or through the Expectancy Theory. I will focus on the former scenario with Maslow, since cancer represents a far greater magic carpet ride up and down the pyramid, while in the latter scenario I will demonstrate that the theory applies very well to Lance Armstrong as well as to sports in particular.
When Armstrong got cancer, his motives on the Maslow pyramid immediately shifted. As a general matter, being given a 40% chance of survival (Armstrong 2000) will punt one squarely off of self-actualization, where Lance's cycling career previously had him, and directly back down to the Physiological Needs/Survival stage on Maslow's pyramid. It has been said that “the dividing line between a live hero and a dead one is a sharp sword...you don't want to end up on the dead guy side of the line.” (UESP 2010), and for Lance the sharp sword was the medical skill of his cancer team.
After the immediate concern of surviving cancer was out of the way, Lance, still an up-and-comer in the cycling world, had to find both his sense of security and belonging, first by assuring himself that he could still make a living in cycling and then by finding his personal satisfaction in the adulation and cooperation of his teammates. In the interview we watched in class, Lance said that he felt awkward accepting an individual Athlete of the Year honor when he clearly knew it was his team that made that possible; this is Belonging writ large across the landscape even in a case where one would normally expect Esteem to be the prime motivating factor behind Lance's actions. Lance got his esteem not from the adoring public but from his fellow cyclists. Peer motivation clearly works far more effectively for Lance Armstrong.
However, all in Maslow is not simply climbing pyramids like a tourist in the Mayan ruins of Belize. Lance still had to ensure the security of his ride with the Postal Service team, and for that he may have resorted to more sinister means. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2006 that Armstrong almost certainly engaged in blood doping during at least the 1999 Tour, and the French magazine L'Equipe has been pounding that particular drumbeat since Armstrong's win in that very race. Floyd Landis, after being disqualified when he got caught using synthetic testosterone and stripped of his win in the 2006 Tour, implicated Lance Armstrong and said that he and Lance had used those drugs together when they were teammates during Lance's 1999-2005 Tour de France winning streak (Ford 2006). Regardless of whether these accusations are ultimately true, their credibility speaks to a very strong motivating factor of security for Lance, in addition to an almost desperate need to keep winning at any cost because the capstone of Maslow's pyramid, self-actualization, demands continued attention...attention that Lance Armstrong would go to any length to achieve.
As well, Lance clearly missed the adulation and even at a far more advanced age, Armstrong competed in the 2010 Tour, trying to recapture his lost glory. Sadly, it brought to mind Willie Mays for the '73 Mets or Michael Jordan in a Wizards uniform, a sad shell of a once-great man trying to recapture lost glories. It should be interesting to watch Lance Armstrong try and move forward in his life as he has to redefine his expectations for esteem and self-actualization in light of the changing circumstances. Lance turned 39 on September 18, 2010. If indeed life begins at forty, he should be able to find satisfaction in raising his young son and, should he remain clear of any drug allegations being proven, he will have his reputation as an all-time great athlete (Jones 2008) to carry him through.
The previous page was a psychological overview of a man's life, but the Expectancy theory of motivation works on a far more micro level. It is all well and good to assert that Lance Armstrong met this or that emotional need, but what got him on that bike every day? What convinced him that he could win seven consecutive Tours de France, with or without performance-enhancing drugs? For that, a very simple pattern emerges.
Lance Armstrong clearly has a very strong internal locus of control, and that is the unstated factor in determining one's expectations regarding one's own effort, performance, and result. At the higher levels of probability, it is implicit that one have confidence in the results of those efforts.
Lance Armstrong had a very high effort-to-performance expectancy; indeed, by 2005 it almost seemed like the public, not just Lance himself, had a 1.0 effort-to-performance expectancy for the Tour de France that year. While it was probably not a perfect 100%, Lance clearly believed in himself and believed that getting on that bike and going full-out would lead to wearing the maillot jaune on the Champs-Elysees for the Epilogue stage.
Meanwhile, the Performance-to-Outcome expectancy rests in large part on the shoulders of Lance's teammates. Performance and ability are only two-thirds of the equation; Steve Carlton won 25 games for a 1972 Phillies team that went 57-105, but if his expectation was to win a World Series ring, his environment (playing on a gods-awful baseball team) ensured failure on that front. Lance Armstrong suffered no such difficulty. From 1999 to 2005 he was surrounded by the best supporting cast that money could buy and that supporting cast found its own motivation in being able to share the podium with their star when the Tour reached its conclusion. The great illusion about cycling is that it is an individual sport; it is nothing of the kind. Lance Armstrong's performance and ability could only carry him so far; it was the environment, made possible by his teammates, that turned a performance-to-outcome expectancy from the near-nil it would have been had Lance's situation been more like Steve Carlton's into the near-certainty with a rating close to 1.0 that gave Armstrong the confidence to say to himself, “get on the bike, ride like hell, and we will win this thing.”
Seven consecutive victories certainly speak to the mathematical axiom that 1.0 times 1.0 equals 1.0. There was no variance for seven years. Lance Armstrong got on his bike, rode the length and breadth of the land of Vercingetorix and Napoleon, and in the process rode into sporting immortality.
Though once again, the specter of steroids raises its ugly head. If indeed Lance is telling the truth and confidence alone was enough to motivate him, then why the persistent collection of sources and cites saying otherwise? Circumstance and hearsay are only good for so much, but not for nothing does the “List of doping allegations against Lance Armstrong” article on Wikipedia contain, as of this writing, forty-one total citations from at least two dozen unique sources. Question the validity of Wikipedia all you like, but 41 citations?
This suggests that Lance had a crisis of confidence. This suggests that his expected probability of success in his own mind was far lower than the evidence indicates. Perhaps he looked at the cycling landscape, saw the multitude of dirty athletes injecting gods-know-what into their veins, and next thing Lance knew his 1.0 became an 0.3 and had to be rectified by any means necessary.
If Floyd Landis is to be believed, there was a pervasive culture of performance-enhancer use on that USPS cycling team. Even if Lance was completely clean, would his 1.0 performance-to-outcome expectancy have been that high if his teammates had been truly clean? Or would the perception of playing for the '72 Phillies have busted that down to an 0.4 and caused Lance to doubt himself on the racecourse?
Far be it from me, a mere college student with 1500 words to fill and a penchant for diarrhea of the pen, to impugn a man's motives. But the duck test applies. If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's on steroids. That would sure go a long way toward turning “0.4x0.3=0.12” into “1x1=1” for expectations and results on the valence level. And it would sure serve to explain Lance Armstrong in an Occam's razor sort of way.
Abrahamson, Alan. “Allegations Trail Armstrong into Another Stage.” Los Angeles Times, July 9, 2006.
Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, The. “Oblivion: Tun-Zeeus”. http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Oblivion:Tun-Zeeus. Retrieved September 29, 2010.
Ford, Bonnie D. “Landis Admits Doping, Accuses Lance.” ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/cycling/news/story?id=5203604. Retrieved September 29, 2010.
Armstrong, Lance and Jenkins, Sally. It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. New York; Putnam, 2000.
Jones, Chris. “The Things We Forget, Part 3: Lance Armstrong and David Tyree.” ESPN The Magazine. December 3, 2008.