Anyone who has been with VeloVoices through last year will know that when there is a major story, I try to piece together a mosaic of what people are saying about it on Twitter. With these Specials, I try to give a reflection of what people are saying on Twitter – fans, journalists, riders, anyone who’s talking about the topic. I also try to keep my comments to a minimum (I’ve already made my own personal thoughts clear on this blog already, as have Tim, Ant and Panache) and that’s true for this as well.
I have waded through a lot of tweets and I’ve tried to pick out some of the most thought-provoking, the funniest, the most passionate, the most immediate in reaction, just to preserve a snapshot of the last few days. Could you imagine if Samuel L Jackson had been tweeting about it like he did about the Olympics? THAT would have been awesome! Anyway I’ve tried to put the tweets in some semblance of order but it’s very difficult – like getting the Department of Justice to drop a case, apparently! – and so it jumps around a lot. But bear with it, because the last entry is the one that’s really worth reading. I promise.
Not so long ago, in a galaxy not so far away
Early Friday morning (UK time), the Twittersphere blew up like Alderaan hit by the Death Star. It was the Lance Armstrong ‘No Holds Barred’ Interview with Oprah Winfrey. The biggest story in town.
He said WHAT?
“I did it for Kristen”
I just realised, not only were his three children lied to continually by their father, but by their mother too. How truly awful for them. They don’t deserve that.
“I don’t like that guy”
Semantics and process
Some still believe and some don’t … but everyone wants to move forward
Riders’ (and Federer’s) responses
(Not sure what the world is going on in this exchange between Cav and Daniel Benson about hotel rooms but this is just an example of the surreal stuff that has been going on …)
Like many of you, I took the time to watch Oprah, two nights in a row. (Yes, it’s hard to admit that I watched Oprah. The next thing you know, I’ll be watching the Twilight movies.) [Steady on, there’s no need to commit the ultimate sacrifice – Ed.]
With apologies to George Lucas, here are my thoughts on both parts of the saga.
Doprah 1: A Glimmer of False Hope
This was where Lance was supposed to reveal all his sins and tell the truth, the whole truth, so help me, Fausto Coppi. We expected him to describe how he was going to try to restore balance to the Force by admitting everything, truly apologising and starting to provide a bit of restitution.
We got a Glimmer of False Hope.
Yeah, Lance admitted to blood transfusions, using EPO, human growth hormone, testosterone, cortisone, et cetera, all in the first five minutes. He even confirmed the existence of Motoman! I was impressed with Oprah’s direct questioning up to that point in the programme but then it digressed into a muddled mess of half-truths and typical Lance obfuscation (a.k.a. Semantic Doping):
He said he hadn’t read Tyler Hamilton’s book. We all called B.S. because we know Lance and all his lawyers have read it. Okay, maybe Lance listened to the audio version while he was on his couch surrounded by those yellow jersey
He told us he cared for Christian Vande Velde after saying he had lied in his sworn deposition to USADA. Personally, Christian, “I like your word, I like your credibility.”
He stated he did not dope during Comeback 2.0, even though his blood values said otherwise and blood doping kits were found in a search of Armstrong’s Astana team equipment at the 2009 Tour.
And finally, refusing to discuss Betsy Andreu’s account of the 1996 hospital incident. I fully understood why Betsy was having an aneurysm on Anderson Cooper. She exclaimed:
If he’s not going to tell the truth. If he can’t say, “Yes, the hospital room happened” then how are we to believe everything else that he’s saying? We’re already questioning him … If it didn’t happen, just say it didn’t happen. But he won’t do it, because it did happen.
This tweet summed up how I felt after watching episode one:
Doprah 2: Revenge of the Cancer Shield
Unfortunately this episode was designed to provide Lance the opportunity to generate public sympathy. Here is how the plot played out:
Lance started by telling Oprah about how much money he’s lost because all his sponsors walked away. Obviously we mere mortals can empathise with having millions of dollars in endorsements … NOT! The funniest part was when Lance described losing $75 million in one day. Oprah didn’t bat an eye. I guess that’s because she spent that much last week on home decor and cupcakes.
He then deployed the Cancer Shield by describing how he was asked to cut ties with Livestrong. He said it was lowest point in the saga. It could have worked because of the number of people affected by cancer but Lance blew it when he showed more remorse about losing his position than disappointing millions of cancer patients and their families.
When asked if the purpose of his confession was so that he can compete in the future, Lance described how he would love to compete in sanctioned endurance events like the Chicago marathon. He described how he had been issued a death sentence and that he was treated differently than those who worked with USADA. My sympathy meter went to negative-20 at this point. Lance was given that opportunity but refused, knowing full well a lifetime ban would be the result.
Finally he talked about dealing with his ex-wife and children. He described interacting with his son Luke and telling him he shouldn’t defend Lance to his friends any longer. This is the only point where I felt sympathy. I felt it for his children. They will have to come to terms with their father’s legacy and it won’t be easy.
The interview ended with Oprah asking Lance what he thought the moral of the story was. He was incapable of answering because right now he has no currency in his moral bank account. So Oprah loaned him an answer and closed with this:
The truth shall set you free.
I just about lost my lunch. Refund please! Hopefully the DVD has an alternate ending.
Here are the thoughts of our newest VeloVoice, Ant, on you-know-who.
I used to be a fan of the Texan drug baron back when it was still feasible to think he wasn’t a doper. I enjoyed watching him race and admired him as a rider. He never struck me as somebody who I’d actually like as a person but I understood that winners need that element of arrogance and selfishness. It didn’t dawn on me how far that arrogance, selfishness and desire to win had pushed him. Thankfully the truth has been exposed and we’re in no doubt as to what lengths this obsessive, almost crazed bully – I can call him crazy, as long as I don’t call him fat – would go to in order to win. Some of the stories that have been unveiled are nothing short of shocking, and his behaviour in recent months nothing short of bizarre.
As Tim suggested, ‘Doprah’ was most likely just the first move in a strategy to turn this PR freefall around. I haven’t watched the chat show confession but I’d be a hypocrite if I said I had no interest in it as I’m writing about it – I just couldn’t bring myself to watch him being indulged. In my ten wishes for 2013, I wished for Lance to man up and confess or fight. He’s sort of done that, but this is not really enough. I don’t think his repentance is genuine. I think that he’s saying what he knows he needs to say, without meaning it. I also don’t see any honesty about what motivated his confession and see his ‘need to compete’ thing as a smokescreen. Yes, he’s ultra-competitive, but how many years of top-flight triathlon competition has he got in him? Two? Five? After being obstinate for so long, would that be enough to get him to u-turn away from his strategy of aggressive denial? I doubt it and I fully believe that there is an alternative endgame.
Can Lance redeem himself? He has an interesting psychological make-up and certain aspects, such as the desire to win, will be consistent amongst many cyclists, as will the circumstances that led him to dope. I want him to use the insight gained from his own demise to help others and to help the sport clean itself up.
Lance was a big part cycling’s problems, and remains so with this continued pantomime. But certain individuals out in the crowd heckling the bad guy are also part of the pantomime, and neither party is currently producing a solution. I don’t like him and I don’t like where he’s at right now, but his demise and destruction is not a cause for celebration. If he goes down, we’ve all gone through pain for nothing. There are no winners from that outcome. He’ll never repair what he’s done but a romantic part of me believes in redemption, and there is still a chance that he can salvage something good from the disgrace that has been his career.