The myth of Lance Armstrong ended a long time before the first part of his interview with Oprah Winfrey ran Thursday night and it isn’t likely that he changed any minds with his admission of doping and bullying.
Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said in a statement that Armstrong’s mea culpas were “a small step in the right direction,” but the night’s winner was Winfrey, not Armstrong. He may have admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs (specifically, he said his “cocktail” of choice was EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions), but the first step of his apology tour fell flat. Gaining the world’s affection and admiration won’t be as easy for Armstrong this time around.
Armstrong’s comments were “new and noteworthy,” Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News writes, “only because one of the great phonies and great frauds in the history of sports was finally saying this himself, not saying he was clean when he wasn’t, not attacking the real truth tellers, not suing anybody who tried to cross him, not calling his accusers crazy and calling them whores.”
Armstrong spoke of his bullying and his predilection for suing anyone who dared whisper that he was doping. He admitted that he set out to ruin people like Emily O’Reilly, his team’s former masseuse who honestly spoke of a failed test for cortisone. He apologized, but said nothing about having called her a prostitute and a drunk. He said precious little about the Andreus, whom he had threatened to crush.
Frankie Andreu, a former teammate, and his wife, Betsy, were in Armstrong’s hospital room in the 1990s when Armstrong told a doctor treating him for cancer exactly what drugs he was using and had long drawn Armstrong’s wrath for saying as much. He had apologized to the couple in a 40-minute phone conversation, but backed down from discussing that with Winfrey, saying he was “laying down on that one.” He, in the interview’s oddest moment, said only that he told Betsy he’d never called her “fat.”
Betsy Andreu, on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” was visibly upset about his refusal to support the couple now. “The exchange has me furious. He could have come clean. He owed it to me.”
No one, it seems, would disagree. Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel writes that “Armstrong revealed a measure of the man that he is and this much is certain: if you never met this jerk, well, count your blessings.”
Oh, Lance had a plan to try to look open and honest, and that was what was so obvious: It was a plan. It sounded rehearsed. But when he went off script, well, that’s when he went off the rails.
He apologized, and that’s worth something, worth a lot to those of us who aren’t outraged anymore over doping in sports. But in doing so, in tuning into the Oprah Winfrey Network, you could only marvel at that personality on display, the same one that while we celebrated his victories was, behind the scenes, leaving a path of personal destruction in its wake.
This was a glimmer of the true Lance Armstrong coming out. No Nike commercial edits. No press conference sound bites. No glowing magazine profiles. This was the guy who left scores and scores of people cursing that their paths ever crossed.
It’s not about the bike, indeed. This was about Lance’s sociopathic spectacle.
The Post’s Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, parses these things in terms of Pinocchio and concludes that Armstrong deserves four for every Tour de France victory which comes to a whoppingly unprecedented 28 and prompts him to ask if Armstrong is “the world’s biggest liar.” So…congratulations?
ESPN.com’s Bonnie D. Ford, a cycling writer who covered Armstrong for years, was just as skeptical.
It was a typical Lance Event, although it was about as far from the bike as it gets. It was about spectacle and managed production and trying to craft another chapter in a punctured epic that has lost its helium and sunk to earth.
It was about what it is always about with Lance Armstrong: hubris and control, the same tightly intertwined strands of his DNA that convinced him he would never be exposed, that the dozens and dozens of people privy to his pyramid scheme would remain muzzled forever.
It was desperate. And huge chunks of it ranged from disingenuous to unbelievable.
Buzzfeed was thinking about the masses, the many people who perhaps now might regret that Livestrong body art, saying “nothing like having the slogan of an disgraced athlete eternally displayed on your arm.”
Just wasted an hour and half of my life doing what probably half of Americans just did #annoyed
— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) January 18, 2013
Seriously?????Part 2???Wtf???Terrible and genius of Oprah all at the same time — andyroddick (@andyroddick) January 18, 2013
Lance Armstrong just called himself Lance. Wow. Why am I watching this? — Paul Azinger (@PaulAzinger) January 18, 2013
And Armstrong regains the lead over Manti Te’o!
— Neal Brennan (@nealbrennan) January 18, 2013
There’s more tonight. Will you watch or have you heard enough?