Lance Armstrong Versus Game Theory

Michael Shermer dissects the means of winning & cheating

Thanks to the two-part ESPN documentary on Lance Armstrong that’s been making plenty of waves through both cycling and non-cycling media. Recently, we  got a peak on a review of the Tour de France doping scandal from former Race Across America winner and ultra-distance cycling pioneer Michael Shermer who in addition to his cycling exploits is also the founder of Skeptic Magazine.

We actually ran a story on Michael Shermer a couple of years ago after bumping into him on a local ride. Although we are not endorsing Michael’s views on Lance or anything found in the Skeptic, we did find his analysis of Lance and how it pertains to Game Theory and the Nash equilibrium quite fascinating.

“When everyone in a system violates the rules, or if everyone just thinks that everyone else is violating the rules (even if they are not all so doing), cheating can become a Nash equilibrium, which turns it from a moral violation to a rational choice.

“That seemingly small difference is actually larger than it appears as it can make the difference between staying in the peloton and getting dropped; when you’re dropped and unable to enjoy the drafting benefits of riding in a large pack of riders, that can spell the difference between staying in the race or taking a flight home. This is where the game theory matrix of incentives kicks in.”


To read Michael’s full report: Shermer on Lance 




Top Photo: Bettini



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