The Tour de France? No. Impossible to win without doping. Because the Tour is a test of endurance where oxygen is decisive,” Le Monde quoted Armstrong as saying.
Probably true. Unless, of course, nobody was doping. In which case somebody who wasn't doping ultimately would have won.
Armstrong hit his prime at a time when EPO—a hormone that produces red blood cells—was both widely used and undetectable in the blood. So while, sure, Armstrong remains an unrepentant cheater (he mostly seems sorry that he got caught), I do have a touch of sympathy for his logic. If he wanted to win the Tour, he had to cheat. Because most of the other top cyclists were cheating too. And it's not really cheating if everybody is doing it, right?
The problem was not that cycling was a sport that attracted cheaters, it's that it was very poorly regulated. And without a strong and effective regulatory system to level the playing field on those steep mountain roads, it was impossible to compete without cheating. And so professionals like Armstrong and Jan Ullrich were incentivized to cheat.
The same holds true for financial and other markets. It doesn't take a corrupt society in order to create a corrupt market, it takes one unethical individual who is willing to bend the rules for their own personal gain. Because markets are competitive, the ability and willingness of one participant to cheat with impunity creates an economic imperative for all participants to cheat. It's cheating that levels the playing field, not the rules. And since rational self-interest is what motivates capitalist markets, there will always be individuals looking to upset the ethical equilibrium by pursuing the opportunity to cheat.
The only alternative is strong and effective market regulation. And the only body remotely capable of regulating markets is government. Without strong government regulation, "free market" capitalism doesn't work.
So thanks, Lance, for giving us this basic lesson in economics.