Lance Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey: The interview

January 17, 2013

At 9 p.m. EST, Lance Armstrong’s interview/confessional/get-your-popcorn-date with Oprah Winfrey began on “Oprah’s Next Chapter.”

I live blogged and tweeted (@CindyBoren) tonight’s episode in an attempt to see if Armstrong could pull off this public rehabilitation of his reputation. If you missed it, you can watch it again here. Or tune in tomorrow for the second episode.

[liveblog]

Lance Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey: And that’s a wrap on Part 1

Thanks for joining me tonight. I’m particularly interested to see how you reacted to Armstrong’s comments, whether what clearly is a rehabilitation tour is working or not.

Follow me on Twitter and we can continue to discuss this.

Armstrong and the Andrieus

Armstrong refused to discuss the Andrieus.

In the past, he had attacked Frankie Adrieu, a former teammate, and his wife, Betsy, who had said that he admitted to doping when he was undergoing cancer treatment in an Indiana hospital in the ’90s.

Have you made peace? Armstrong said he had spoken to them on the phone in a confidential conversation.

“No, because they’ve been hurt too badly. A 40-minute conversation isn’t enough.”

Finally, Armstrong divulged a bit of the conversation with Betsy Andrieu.

“I called you crazy. I called you a bitch,” he said he told her. “But I never called you fat. She thought I’d said she was a ‘fat, crazy bitch.’ I never said you were fat.”

As with Emma O’Reilly, it was just “territory being threatened” for Armstrong. “I’m going to attack.”

Armstrong says team masseuse was “run over, got bullied”

Armstrong tested positive for cortisone elevation and a prescription was produced and backdated for “saddle sores,” a story told by former USPS masseuse Emma O’Reilly.

Armstrong had always denied the story and called her a prostitute and an alcoholic.

“She’s one of those people that I have to apologize to,” Armstrong said. “She’s one of these people that got run over, got bullied.”

In fact, he sued her, as Winfrey pointed out.

“To be honest, Oprah, we sued so many people, I don’t even … I’m sure we did. I have reached to her and tried to make those amends on my own.”

Winfrey seems outraged that Armstrong could have been so oblivious to have sued her, knowing full well she was right.

“It’s a major flaw and it’s a guy who expected to get whatever he wanted and to control every outcome. It’s inexcusable. When I say there are people who hear this and will never forgive me, I understand that. I do. … All of this is a process for me. One of those steps is to say to those people, ‘I was wrong, you were right.’”

Armstrong says “I didn’t fail a test”

Lance Armstrong has maintained all along that he never failed a drug test.

Asked if he has a different answer today, he hesitates before saying no, then adds, “I didn’t fail a test. Stuff was retroactively tested [1999, Winfrey points out], so technically then retroactively … Yes, I failed those. But the hundreds and hundreds of tests I took I passed them and I passed them because there was nothing in [his] system.”

There have been allegations, though, that he bribed the UCI with former teammates Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis saying Armstrong had implied that a positive EPO test would not come to light. They’re two of the 11 former teammates interviewed for the USADA report.

“I’m going to tell you what is and isn’t true. That story isn’t true. There was no positive test, there was no paying off of the lab, there was no secret meeting with the lab director.”

The UCI, Winfrey asks, didn’t make that go away?

“No. And I am no fan of the UCI. That did NOT happen.”

Armstrong’s donation to UCI was not a bribe, he insists.

“Recklessness” characterized Armstrong’s behavior at the height of his success

Because the people Lance Armstrong and his team were competing against were doping, he viewed using drugs as creating a “level playing field.”

Armstrong had, in the past, supported Dr. Michele Ferrari, now banned, and said he never provided drugs. Armstrong declined to say that Ferrari was the mastermind behind the Tour teams’  doping programs, saying, “I’m not comfortable talking about other people.”

David Walsh of the Sunday Times had written at the time that Armstrong’s involvement with Ferrari created suspicions, a relationship that Oprah Winfrey suggested was reckless.

“From a public perception standpoint, sure. But there were plenty of other reckless things. In fact, that would be a very good way to characterize that period of my life.”

Winfrey (Dr. Winfrey!) notes that fame magnifies who a person is (“If you’re a jerk, you’re a bigger jerk. If you’re a humanitarian, you’re a bigger humanitarian.”) and asks what fame did to Armstrong.

“I don’t know if you pulled those two words out of the air — jerk and humanitarian,” Armstrong says (she didn’t, I’ll wager), “but I’d say I was both. And we saw both and now [at the height of his success] we’re seeing more of the jerk part than the activist, the humanitarian, the philanthropist, the leader of the [Livestrong] foundation. We’re seeing that now. I am flawed, deeply flawed. I think we all have our flaws. If the magnifying glass is this big [hands about four inches apart], I made it this big [hands about two feet apart] because of my actions, and because of my words and my attitude and my defiance. And I’m paying the price for it and that’s okay. I deserve this. I don’t look around and say, ‘Oprah, hey, I am getting so screwed here.’ Were there days early on when I said that? Absolutely. Those days are fewer and fewer and farther and farther between. Listen, I deserve it.”

His arrogance served him well during his fight with cancer and on the bike served him well, Armstrong says, but it’s a flaw. Referring to a tape of one of his many adamant denials of doping, he says, “You watch that tape, you say, ‘that’s an arrogant person.’ I look at that and I say, ‘Look at this arrogant prick.’ I say that today. It’s not good.”

Doping was like “air in our tires, water in our bottles”

To keep on winning the Tour, Armstrong’s one goal and one ambition, required the continued use of performance-enhancing drugs. It was so important that he admits he would do anything to win.

“Winning was important. I still like to win, but I view it a little differently now [with a laugh].”

To keep winning meant continuing to use banned substances.

“I’m not sure that this is an acceptable answer, but that’s like saying we have to have air in our tires or water in our bottles. That was, in my view, part of the job.”

Armstrong says he did not get teammates fired

The interview is now proceeding in a particularly linear fashion. Oprah Winfrey is asking questions now about whether Lance Armstrong had the power to get teammates fired and appears to be heading into the territory about whether he was intimidating others for their silence.

“You’re asking me, if somebody on the team says, ‘I’m not going to dope,’ and I said ‘You’re fired’? Absolutely not. Could I? I guess I could have, but I never did.

“Look, I was the leader of the team and the leader of any team leads by example and there was never a direct order or a directive to say ‘you have to do this if you want to do the Tour, if you want to be on the team. That never happened. It was a competitive time. We were all grown men. We all made our choices. But there were people on the team who chose not to.”

As for a former teammate’s allegation that Armstrong had him fired?

“There was a level of expectation. We expected guys to be fit, to be strong, to perform, but I certainly didn’t … I’m not the most believable guy in the world right now, I understand [with a little laugh], but I did not do that.”

And the last time he doped?

“The last time I crossed the line was 2005.”

When he placed third in 2009 and again in 2010 in the Tour de France, he was not doping. Nor was he transfusing his blood.

“Absolutely not.”

And there it is: the admission performance-enhancing drugs

“Yes.”

That’s the simple, easy, one-syllable answer to the 64-million-dollar question.

Oprah Winfrey started out with a series of questions and asked for yes-or-no answers to whether Lance Armstrong used the blood-boosting agent EPO or blood transfusions to boost him to Tour de France victories.

The answer to each question is “yes” and, after joking that “we’re done with yes-or-no questions” said he began using performance-enhancing drugs, starting in the mid-’90s.

Oprah: You were defiant. You called other people liars.

LA: I understand that.

Armstrong, in a blazer and gray slacks, has more gray hair than I remember seeing. And he looks a little more nervous than I expected. Perhaps it’s just the tension. As the questions are becoming more precise, about actual dates and methods of doping, he seems to be relaxing a bit.

A Nike and Lance reunion?

The Wasatch Brew Pub in Utah watch the Lance Armstrong interview. (EPA/George Frey)
The Wasatch Brew Pub in Utah watch the Lance Armstrong interview. (EPA/George Frey)
When the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report was released last year, Nike severed its sponsorship ties with Lance Armstrong, although its Livestrong ties remain.

Given the disgraced cyclist’s status in the world of competitive, is it possible that Armstrong could be back in Nike’s stable of athletes one day?

“Never say never,” Nike CEO Phil Knight replied, via TMZ, when asked at a conference Tuesday at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Knight told the reporter that there were no plans afoot. And, as for tonight’s interview, “I don’t know what he’s going to say.”

Landis whistleblower suit targets others around Armstrong

Floyd Landis, a former teammate of Lance Armstrong’s, has targeted not only Armstrong but some of his closest associates in the whistleblower lawsuit that has been under judicial seal for more than 2 1/2 years, the Post’s Liz Clarke reports.

Those targeted are Armstrong’s longtime manager, his closest friend and his deep-pocketed benefactor. In addition, Landis reserves the right ot add others to the qui tam suit, which claims that Armstrong and his associates defrauded the federal government by accepting roughly $30 million in sponsorship money to bankroll a U.S. Postal Service cycling team that fueled by performance-enhancing drugs.

The associates are Thomas W. Weisel, a California dot.com-era millionaire who is a cycling enthusiast and former owner of the USPS team; Johan Bruyneel, the team’s former manager; William Stapleton, Armstrong’s longtime agent; and Barton Knaggs, a longtime friend and business partner of Armstrong; and their respective corporate entities, including Weisel’s Tailwind Sports, which owned the USPS team.

Landis alleges that they all knew of the team’s doping program and they were complicit in defrauding the federal government.

The Department of Justice also has sought an extension of the deadline by which it must file to join the whistleblower suit.

Read the story here before the interview begins.

What do you expect tonight?

Just what else will Lance Armstrong have to say? (George Burns / Reuters)
Just what else will Lance Armstrong have to say? (George Burns / Reuters)

Lance Armstrong, as has been reported by everyone, will admit to doping, although Winfrey said he “did not come clean in the manner I expected.” There will be, we are told, tears from Armstrong, banned for life from competition and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and Olympic bronze medal.

As the interview, divided into two 90-minute installments, proceeds, we can expect to hear Armstrong defend himself against accusations that he was a thug, a bully who intimidated teammates and team employees into silence to protect him and the mastermind of a sophisticated operation.

For Armstrong, the risks are high. While the interview airs tonight and Friday night, his lawyers continue to do their thing, working behind the scenes to mitigate Armstrong’s legal exposure and chart a path for a possible return to competition, which would require the World Anti-Doping Agency to lift its lifetime ban.

For Winfrey, the stakes are high. Her network, created after she ended her phenomenally successful syndicated talk show, is struggling and averages about 330,000 viewers a night. That figures to change, unless she saves all the juicy stuff for the last 20 minutes of the second installment. (She really doesn’t want this to be her “Geraldo at Al Capone’s vault” moment.)

Besides, I think I speak for everyone when I say there’s only so much we can take. She needs to move on to Manti Te’o.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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Cindy Boren · January 17, 2013

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