Sally Jenkins is a colleague and friend. She’s also sort of part of the Lance Armstrong story. So since I frequently transcribe interviews involving D.C. sports figures, I will hereby transcribe her Tuesday appearance on the Charlie Rose Show. You can watch it here.And you can read her most recent column on the topic here.
By the way, if any local radio and/or TV sports hosts are reading this, please observe how brief and yet pointed Rose’s questions are, and how direct and meaty Jenkins’s subsequent answers are. That makes for better interviews than long, rambling questions and short, confused answers.
Rose: Now that you know, what does it change for you?
Jenkins: Well, I think I knew the moment I read George Hincapie’s affidavit — which I accept as completely truthful — and some of the other rider affidavits. I don’t think you could have read the rider affidavits in the USADA report and not come to the conclusion that yeah, he did it. So the confession is important because it’s Lance finally telling people like me. I’ve been hearing all this stuff from other people, and I’ve expressed to him that what has disappointed me most is to hear it from others and not from him. So I belong in the category of friend and associate, and I think that he’s been doing a lot of apologizing to people like that in the last couple days. For better or worse, this is his moment to sort of let people hear it from him, rather than read it in a report or hear it in a broadcast.
Rose: Did he apologize to you?
Jenkins: He did. He did.
Rose: And what did he say?
Jenkins: He said he was sorry for misleading me. He said he was sorry — and this is a very small thing — but he expressed that he was sorry that my reputation had taken a hit because of my association with him, which I appreciated. And it wasn’t a very long conversation, but it was a meaningful one to me. I had hoped he was clean. He’s not. Am I angry about that? You know, I don’t rise to the level of anger that I think a lot of people want me to. I think that there’s a level of anger at Lance that is out of proportion to the offense of doping.
Rose: Why do you say that?
Jenkins: Because let’s face it, he’s a bicyclist. I don’t condone doping, I don’t condone breaking the rules. What I have said to him and what I’ve written is that I forgive him. I don’t condone it, but I forgive him. I think that doping is so endemic in cycling, apparently, that it was the price of competing in that era. Do I agree with it? Do I like it? No. I don’t have the heart to be full of rage at him. I just don’t. People are going to have to accept that I don’t feel that for him. I feel disappointment. But he’s my friend.
[Here Rose read an excerpt from a recent column about what Sally likes about Armstrong.]
Rose: That still stands, I assume?
Jenkins: I believe all that. The guy I know did a lot of good in the cancer world. I’ve always said I don’t know if he’s clean, but I know that he beat cancer fair and square. The cancer fighter was the guy that I liked very much, and respected, and enjoyed working with. And that part of him is still intact. For better or worse, our greatest cancer fighter happens to be a guy who also took some chances with his health. And that’s an interesting fact.
Rose: But there’s also this aspect of intimidation and threats…that is to many people believable.
Jenkins: Right. I think that that’s what he’s going to have to address with Oprah. I think it’s certainly equal to the doping, to be honest. Quite honestly, I thought that was the most damaging stuff in the USADA report. I think those are the toughest questions for him. You know, the Lance Armstrong that I know and that I have dealt with has never been threatening. He’s certainly complicated. He’s certainly flawed. He is certainly angry, at times, and combative. He’s never been menacing. Now, that’s my personal experience with him, and I’m a friend. I would not want to meet him as an adversary, I can say that. I think that he’s got some work to do to persuade people that that Lance Armstrong – the threatening, the intimidating Lance Armstrong that’s been portrayed – he’s got some work to do to convince people that that’s a mis-portrayal.
Jenkins: I’m an outlier on the topic of doping in sports, so what you’re gonna get from me is probably not the prevailing attitude towards it. I think it’s a terrible, terrible moral dilemma and a very complicated question. I think we’ve done a poor job of defining what doping is, what is therapy vs. what is doping, what helps a guy simply get back on the bike to ride another day vs. what gives him a genuine competitive advantage, what substances are truly performance enhancing and which are just on the list. We have things float on and off lists. I don’t have the moral certitude that a lot of people do on the anti-doping question. I think that it’s a matter of personal conscience. I think we’re doing a bad job of persuading athletes that it’s not the best option. I don’t think we’re talking to them honestly about it, and I don’t think we’re listening to them honestly about it. So I have a lot of complicated feelings about this quite apart from Lance Armstrong, and I always have….I think we’re on the wrong track, and I think that quite apart from Lance.