Why Lance Armstrong’s doping confession may not be enough

January 18, 2013

The first segment of a two-part series featuring Lance Armstrong confessing to using performance -enhancing drugs to Oprah aired Thursday. Fact checker Glenn Kessler wrote:

It is fair to say that in more than three decades of reporting, The Fact Checker has never written a sports story. But The Fact Checker has written a lot about people who stretch the truth — or to put it less delicately, are liars.

 With Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs to repeatedly win the Tour de France multi-stage bicycle race, the question arises: Is Lance Armstrong the biggest liar alive?

Armstrong, unlike some other sports heroes, has not been charged or convicted of criminal perjury. But his lies are monumental, endured for years and were aimed at creating an image that made him famous, wealthy and an inspiration for people with cancer. He was the ringleader of lying on his team — and he kept lying even after many of his co-conspirators and teammates had abandoned him.

 It is a record of shame that he has only begun to confront reluctantly and under pressure — after almost his entire professional career has been wiped from the pages of history. Armstrong earns Four Pinocchios — for each Tour de France race in which he claimed he won first place without doping.

His confession has been seen by some as the first step to redemption, but remains not enough for others. Tracee Hamilton writes:

Sadly, even Lance Armstrong’s contrition is contrived, it seems. His mea culpa to Oprah Winfrey — always guaranteed to bump a miscreant’s Q rating — is not actually about apologizing to his fans and coming clean, so to speak, about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. It’s about reducing liability and getting back on a bike in competition (in the triathlon; one assumes even an ego such as Armstrong’s knows his Tour de France days are over).

When last I broached the subject of Armstrong, it was not to declare his innocence, but to decry the relentless and costly pursuit of him by USADA. At the time, I had little doubt that Armstrong had doped, but I also had doubts about the investigation.

USADA’s report put those doubts to rest. The evidence is there and irrefutable, and that was plain when the report was released and Armstrong was silent. And he has been silent since, until he began calling people a few days ago to apologize for what was coming on Oprah’s OWN network Thursday and Friday nights.

There isn’t a friends-and-family plan large enough to cover the people Armstrong needed to call, and his plan had better have unlimited minutes, because now he has to apologize for cheating and lying. They are separate bad acts, but while cheating may outweigh lying in the sports world, and is no doubt a character flaw, it can (and has been) punished by that same sports world. (And no, I don’t buy the “everyone was doing it” argument that some of his loyal supporters still use. That’s the argument of a teenager pushing the parental boundaries, not a debate point for a grown man who is supposed to know right from wrong.)


FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, file photo provided by Harpo Studios Inc., Lance Armstrong listens as he is interviewed by talk show host Oprah Winfrey during taping for the show "Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive" in Austin, Texas. Armstrong confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France cycling during the interview that aired Thursday, Jan. 17, reversing more than a decade of denial. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc., George Burns, File) (George Burns/AP)

The Post’s Cindy Boren agrees, saying the first part of the confession hasn’t won anyone over:

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.

Armstrong still faces legal challenges that deal with the doping allegations. Liz Clark writes:

Former teammate Floyd Landis has targeted not only Lance Armstrong but also three of Armstrong’s closest associates — his longtime manager, his closest friend and his deep-pocketed benefactor — in the whistleblower lawsuit that has been under judicial seal for more than two-and-a-half years.

And Landis reserves the right to add others to the so-called 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 Pro Cycling team that was fueled by performance-enhancing drugs.

The 33-page lawsuit, which has been under seal since it was filed June 10, 2010, was leaked and posted on a blog Thursday, roughly nine hours before the first installment of Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey was to air. After more than a decade of vehement denials, Armstrong confesses in the interview to having doped during a career that included seven Tour de France championships and an Olympic bronze medal—all of them now stripped.

The U.S. Justice Department faced a Thursday deadline to decide whether to join Landis’s action but is believed to have requested an extension. Federal officials are reportedly divided on whether pursuing the case represents a prudent use of taxpayer dollars.

Related:

Armstrong gets specific…to a point

Armstrong/Oprah: The Interview

How to get Part II tonight

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