Sympathy for Lance Armstrong? Not here
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org January 14, 2013 10:24PM
(FILES) In this September 22, 2010 picture Lance Armstrong, Founder and Chairman of Livestrong attends the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York. Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping, is weighing whether to admit he used performance-enhancing drugs, The New York Times reported on January 5, 2013. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARYTIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
Updated: February 16, 2013 6:29AM
Lance Armstrong is nothing if not ferociously dedicated, goal-oriented, hard-working and desirous of success — for himself.
So his ceremonial emergence from his deep rat hole of lying and deceit was, you can be sure, well-thought-out and planned with his handlers and the myriad sycophants who have assembled around him for 20 years.
Now Armstrong, who has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, has done what sinners, cheaters and outcasts often do for understanding and absolution in this digital age: He went to Oprah.
It’s not clear if he crawled in a hair shirt or rode a custom Trek bike to the studio in Austin, Texas, but he reportedly confessed Monday for the first time to using performance-enhancing drugs during his famous cycling career, something he always vehemently had denied.
As the queen of interviews that sound more like secret chats between best pals than interrogations, Oprah — who now has her own TV channel — no doubt got Armstrong to say a few things that are painful, then likely guided him to that all-important ‘‘money shot’’: a hard-earned, zoomed-in-upon tear.
Lots of times, Oprah weeps with her subjects. I don’t recall if she shed tears with the bawling Dennis Rodman years ago, but she might have offered him a tissue. After the Armstrong session, Oprah tweeted: ‘‘Just wrapped with
@lancearmstrong. More than 21/2 hours. He came READY!’’
Well, of course, he came ready.
Armstrong wants to participate in sports again, though he has been banned for a lifetime from cycling. Rumors have it that if he were to confess fully and rat out more dopers, he might be allowed to come back in as few as four years, though that’s doubtful. USADA chief Travis Tygart isn’t a pushover or a fool. Confessing to what already has been proved isn’t much of a confession, really.
Armstrong would like to compete in marathons, mountain biking and triathlons. Unfortunately for him, he is barred from Olympic sports, and those are Olympic events.
What we have, thus, is a former hero — a champion who beat an almost certainly fatal cancer and built a massive charity called Livestrong into an umbrella that spread its warmth over an entire sport — wanting forgiveness.
But here’s the thing: Armstrong is guilty of cheating in such a profound way that he can’t simply voice a few regrets — all the sadness having to do with him, remember — and expect the slate to come clean.
Yes, everyone in the cycling world doped, too. Suspended champion Tyler Hamilton called it ‘‘the brotherhood.’’ They still are cheating, for all we know. As cycling star Andy Hampsten said: ‘‘EPO changed everything. Amphetamines and anabolics were nothing compared to EPO.’’
And EPO — erythropoeitin — is one of the drugs that is so hard to test for and that Armstrong is accused of using for years and years. Who knows? It might have caused his testicular cancer.
Armstrong visited his decimated Livestrong Foundation before the Oprah taping and apologized for letting everyone down. He didn’t say he doped, according to sources, but he got folks to weep anyway. He allegedly cried, too.
Remember whom those tears are for. Himself.
He’s in a pickle now. If he said too much in the Oprah interview, he will be liable for near-perjury and lawsuits demanding back millions of dollars.
I have little sympathy for Armstrong. He used his charity as a shield against attacks. He demeaned anyone — journalists, doctors, innocent bike workers — who questioned his cheating. His narcissistic soul wouldn’t allow him to feel for anyone else.
As Hamilton said in his book, The Secret Race: ‘‘He couldn’t let go of this idea that he was destined to be a champion, and he couldn’t let go of the power that allowed him to control his performance so precisely. . . . Lance could withstand anything, but he couldn’t withstand the possibility of losing.’’
Remember that Nike ad from about 10 years ago, the one where that huge corporation lets Armstrong ridicule doping accusers? I do.
It shows Armstrong suffering as he trains, as he voices this: ‘‘Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?’’
People need to do penance to be forgiven. Real penance.
Come back in a decade, Lance.