Keeping Score

How Lance Armstrong Came Clean to Oprah

Lance Armstrong offered an apology. But with him, you'll never know what's real.

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George Burns / REUTERS / Harpo Studios, Inc / Handout

Armstrong being interviewed by Winfrey in Austin on Jan. 14, 2013

Oprah Winfrey could have ended her interview with Lance Armstrong after four minutes or so, probably. At the beginning of her television event on Jan. 17, aired on her network, OWN, Armstrong swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and answered Oprah’s yes-or-no questions, one by one.

“Did you ever take banned substances to enhance your cycling performance?”

“Was one of those banned substances EPO?”

“Did you ever blood-dope or use blood transfusions to enhance your cycling performance?

“Did you ever use any other banned substances like testosterone, cortisone or human growth hormone?”

“In all seven of your Tour de France victories, did you ever take banned substances or blood dope?”

His responses: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Turn off the cameras. Shut it down. Because after all the lying, all the attacks and lawsuits against people who were telling the truth — Armstrong later agreed he was a “bully” — how can you truly believe anything he says from this point forward? “I’ve got no cred,” Armstrong later told Oprah.

Well, Armstrong’s requisite self-flagellation was true. Armstrong called himself a “jerk” and an “arrogant prick.” Tough to argue against that. But what’s Armstrong’s true motivation here? Does he sincerely feel sorry for what he’s done? Or is all this an exercise in image rehab, an effort to replenish his bank account? Armstrong didn’t break down in tears during his talk, and he gave fairly clinical responses. It’s just hard to read a man’s heart when he’s been so heartless.

(MORE: Lance Armstrong’s Confession and the Psychology of the Competitor)

Armstrong also denied that he doped during the 2009 and 2010 tours, when he made his comeback, even though a damning U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report said he did. Armstrong refuted a claim from one of his former teammates, Christian Vande Velde, that he threatened to kick Vande Velde off the team if he didn’t dope. He said that a donation to cycling’s world governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI), wasn’t a payoff to cover up a positive drug test.

That’s all impossible to take at face value.

Armstrong did answer no to one of Winfrey’s opening questions: Did he think it was humanly possibly to win the Tour de France without doping? That was a predictable out: I just got caught up in cycling’s culture of doping. Armstrong later said that while he was winning his Tours, doping did not feel wrong. “Scary,” he admitted. Did you feel bad about it? Winfrey asked. “No,” Armstrong responded. “Even scarier.”

(MORE: Can It Get Any Worse for Lance Armstrong?)

Armstrong said he did not even feel as if he was cheating. “Scariest,” he said. While the “drug cheat” label flew at Armstrong during his cycling career, he told Winfrey he would turn to the dictionary. “The definition of cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe,” Armstrong says. “I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”

During the discussion, Armstrong traced the psychological roots of his charade back to his battle with cancer. Before his diagnosis, Armstrong said, he was a competitor but not a fierce competitor. “In an odd way, that process [fighting testicular cancer] turned me into a person [who] was truly win-at-all-costs,” Armstrong said. “When I was diagnosed and I was treated, I said I would do anything I had to do to survive. And that’s good. And I took that, that attitude, that ruthless and relentless and win-at-all-costs attitude, and I took it right into cycling … and that’s bad.”

(VIDEO: 10 Questions for Lance Armstrong)

Armstrong had a few uncomfortable, if not maddening, moments during the interview. He denied USADA’s conclusion that he and his U.S. Postal Service team “ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,” saying that it could not have been “bigger” than the “East German doping program of the ’70s and ’80s.” Huh? So he’s been studying East Germany? And even if it wasn’t as organized as East Germany’s — and who can prove that? — would that make Armstrong’s tactics any better?

(MORE: Why Lance Armstrong Is Finally Coming Clean)

He said the doping regimen was “very simple.” Armstrong’s “cocktail,” he told Winfrey, was “only EPO — but not a lot — transfusions and testosterone.” Sure, just a little combo of EPO, transfusions and testosterone. Like taking vitamins.

Armstrong refused to address the testimony of Betsy Andreu, the wife of ex-Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, who said that while Armstrong was being treated for cancer, she heard him tell doctors that he had used performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong has attacked Andreu for years. “I did call her crazy,” Armstrong said, while smiling and even laughing a bit. Armstrong may have been laughing at the absurdity of his behavior — I need to chuckle at my stupidity to keep from crying. But again, why assume any innocence in Armstrong? No matter what, it was a weird time to smile.

Oprah’s interview continues Jan. 18. Armstrong will address losing his sponsorship, disappointing Livestrong supporters and other topics. (Expect a ratings drop.) I would still like to hear more direct questions about Armstrong’s financial motivations. Forget about the need to compete and always win; how much did your rock-star lifestyle fuel the lies? And does Armstrong concur that his cancer-awareness work, though laudable, also enriched him personally, as it raised his profile and compelled companies to toss money at him for speaking engagements, endorsements, etc.?

(VIEWPOINT: Why Lance Armstrong Couldn’t Stop Himself)

If Armstrong had never returned to cycling and raced in the 2009 and 2010 tours, he doesn’t think he would have been caught. “We wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t come back,” Armstrong says. In 2010 Floyd Landis — who Armstrong claims wanted a spot on his racing team but wasn’t offered one — accused Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs. The Department of Justice then opened up an investigation, and although the Feds dropped the case in February of last year, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency continued probing.

Toward the end of the interview, Armstrong seemed to express some sincere regret about fighting USADA’s investigation and suing the organization. “Oprah, I’d do anything, I’d do anything, to go back to that day,” Armstrong says. (If only Armstrong had shown such spirited remorse for bullying targets like Andreu, former masseuse Emma O’Reilly and British journalist David Walsh). “I wouldn’t fight. I wouldn’t sue them. I’d listen.” Armstrong says he wishes he had come clean a little earlier, a move that could have given him a shred of extra credibility with sponsors, his foundation and his fans.

That’s fairly easy to believe. I think.

MORE: Who Cares if Lance Armstrong Is Sorry?

30 comments
spentanu
spentanu

Lance is not a deceit. He is a real, true, life story! That is who we are all in the world through the prism, deeds and utterances of one man - from priests to politicians; lawyers to judges; doctors to shamans alike; from artists to pedestrians and from motor racing to bike peddling. This is what makes the world go around; what our species thrives on and what makes all news in all forms NEWSworthy. You will not get another Armstrong. Thank you America! Thank you France de Tour! And thank you Winfrey and Discovery Channel and OWN.

easyweblinx
easyweblinx

David Walsh was banned by all his colleagues. But everyone knew the industry created an icon till there was a point of no return.


easysportslinx.com

h1500e
h1500e

Tommy Simpson was Britain's first men's road race World Champion (a feat matched only by Mark Cavendish in 2011), and won three monument classics, Paris-Nice and two Vuelta a España stages. He notoriously died of exhaustion on the slopes of Mont Ventoux during the 13th stage of the 1967 Tour de France.[2] The post mortem examination found that he had taken amphetamine and alcohol, a diuretic combination which proved fatal when combined with the heat, the hard climb of the Ventoux and a stomach complaint.


How far back would you like to go? Do you know what corporate involvement was like in 1967? Face it, when money is as big as it is now honesty and sportsmanship go out the window. Especially in bike racing. 

Strathink
Strathink

This guy who lied and cheated to gain an edge in a (corrupted) sporting event is being, though somewhat deservedly, publicly crucified.

While those who lied and cheated to get us into wars of aggression with millions killed, maimed and displaced still get royal treatment in esteemed, "very serious" media.

I wonder who is "psychotic" or "sociopathic" here and what kind moral values all this implies?

LoLissaLynn
LoLissaLynn

Mr Lance Armstrong,   I am just a person,  but I want you to know that I will be your friend.   We all error,  big time!  It is the ACT that is unappealing,  not the man.   I want you to be forgiven.  You know what you want and need to do to convey apology and make amends.   The point is I do not agree with forsaking you and deliberately jumping on the train to eradicate you.  

h1500e
h1500e

Most marathons are won by "Amateurs" who compete for the glory. Bike racing is a many million dollar business with heavily involved sponsors. Armstrong bullied to keep his "secret" since he knew what the consequences were-personally and financial. His net worth is $125,000,000 at the moment. Who here wouldn't bully or lie to maintain that? Go on and say, "My honor is worth more than that." Especially when the competition is doing the same thing. Face it people, bike racing is a sport in Europe just as ruthless as the NFL, NASCAR or MLB. You either get down in the mud or you perish. 

Palerider1957
Palerider1957

Simple answer.  MONEY.
Don't see some big long article about Oprah. MONEY. Simple as that. Nothing else. No need for redemption, to tell his side, or any of the other nonsencial excuses offered up by liberals every time they get caught.

JoséGomes
JoséGomes

Words, words... that Mr. Armstrong are still a cheating. We are talking about Lance Armstrong, no one else.

h1500e
h1500e

I defy anyone to tell me how someone can win the Tour de France without drugs. Twenty-one days, 2,100 miles, high speed sprints, mile high climbs and individual time-trials at 30+ mph. Notice that the cycling community isn't saying a word nor are Armstrong's former competitors crowing in triumph. People should have realized what a doping culture existed when Floyd Landis got caught. Instead the cheating has just gotten more sophisticated.

mtngoatjoe
mtngoatjoe

I think most people believed he doped. But we wanted proof. We wanted a positive blood test. His failure to ride clean is also a failure of the USADA. I don't doubt the "everyone" doped, but at some point the agency responsible for testing people has to admit that they either don't have the tools to catch dopers, or that they aren't really interested in catching anybody.

thorbito
thorbito

If this blog post was better proofread, I'd find it  more credible.  How does somebody with such bad writing skills end up writing for Time?

JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

Motivation defines your action.  What's Lance Armstrong's motivation for confessing?    If his motivation is pure and genuine, that's one thing.  If his goal is to rebuild his image to compete in Tri-athlons or marathons,  that's something else.

Don't lift the lifetime ban and let him undo the damage he's done to so many who dared tell the truth.

KentR
KentR

Hus sins are between him and God  he has to live with it  but part of repentance is to confess  and try and wipe the slate clean  as a Christian i have to  forgive  or  the greater sin is mine  for my lack of ability to forgive.  

thewholetruth
thewholetruth

He lied  for 7 years and is now sorry? he cheated and lied continually. He said the doctors in Europe and The USA were out for him. He denied the results of multiple drug test. He made over 100 million dollars and now one fine day he says  " I think I will finally confess to all the suckerz on Oprah......As he arrives in his Limo. 

 There are Cyclists all over the world who were denied a chance to win those medals.  Something is mentally wrong with this man

MarkIstvanko
MarkIstvanko

All my heroes have flaws it turns out. Oddly it makes them more human, but even more to be admired in my opinion. Lance and his cancer fight and his book got me and my wife (who was fighting cancer, but later died) through the hardest days of our lives. No matter what, he will always be one of my heroes. Thank you Lance.

AlexVallas
AlexVallas

He is a disgusting individual that should be forced to give up his huge fortune of approximately $150 million that was earned through lies and fraud.

AmirBeshay
AmirBeshay

Just on an editorial note: seeing a mistake like "is he sincerely feel" in a Time article is shocking...

EMITTIME
EMITTIME

"Is he sincerely feel sorry for......" could have been IS he sincerely feeling sorry for or Is he sincerely sorry for

efrustrated
efrustrated

Am I looking in the least bit interested in this self promoting cheat's confession/justification? Apparently not.

Don't forget to tell us when the book is published, so we can give that a miss,too.

mitchellglaser
mitchellglaser

@h1500e how about all the people who won the Tour de France before there WERE any drugs?

LouiseLister
LouiseLister

@h1500e That's like saying no one can win a marathon without drugs. Even if no one is on drugs, someone still has to win. It just might take longer. The doping culture doesn't excuse Armstrong's bullying tactics, and he can't blame a "doping culture" that he helped orchestrate.

LouiseLister
LouiseLister

@mtngoatjoe Or that at least one of the people they tested was so wealthy and powerful that he was able to lie, cheat, bribe and "legally" manoeuvre his way out of charges.

LouiseLister
LouiseLister

@KentR Dude, no, the "greater sin" isn't yours. I'd be interested to know who told you that. His sin may be between him and God, but his legal wrongdoing is between him and the people he cheated, defrauded, bullied and sued. I'm a Christian too. You're not personally required to forgive Lance Armstrong for anything, and we have a responsibility to hold powerful and corrupt people to account, and to demand honesty and transparency from people who own private jets and probably shouldn't.

thewholetruth
thewholetruth

Reminds me of a Bible verse "Put not your trust in man" 

LouiseLister
LouiseLister

@MarkIstvanko I'm sorry about your wife, and I won't dispute that the book helped her. However, Lance Armstrong doesn't have "flaws." Rather he perpetrated deliberate and criminal wrongs over more than a decade. He took banned substances and lied about it while raking in millions of dollars. He bullied people who got in his way, defamed them, dragged them through the law courts and attempted to destroy their reputations. He bribed his way out of trouble and lied under oath. These aren't "flaws," they are substantial ethical and legal wrongs. Surviving cancer isn't a moral good that erases a series of deliberate moral wrongs. Armstrong built his own legend on a foundation of untruths, and he profited from the blind adoration of people who bought into the myth.

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