Oprah and Lance Armstrong: Ant’s thoughts

Ant avatar

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.

Oprah and Lance Armstrong

Tim’s initial thoughts

Kitty’s thoughts

Tim’s final thoughts

Oprah and Lance Armstrong: Tim’s final thoughts

Wish 1: Hey you on the couch - yeah you! MAN UP!

Having now watched both parts of Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Lance Armstrong (the second part was much less interesting than the first), here are my thoughts as to what we learned and – perhaps more importantly – what happens next.

Overall impression

We all knew this interview was going to be less about truth and reconciliation and more about redemption and rehabilitation, and so it turned out. Armstrong came to present himself as contrite and humble. An ordinary room, plain chairs, simple smart-casual attire, no yellow jerseys hanging on a wall. Just an ordinary Joe having an ordinary chat. With Oprah Winfrey. And millions watching worldwide. Ordinary.

Was he successful? Partially. His up-front confession was well played but there were few meaningful revelations after that. At times he struggled under even a mild grilling. Oprah asked the right questions but there was no full-court press. He would have been dissected on 60 Minutes – which is why he chose Oprah.

Overall, it struck me that the interview was a lot like many of Armstrong’s seven Tour ‘wins’. Bam! A big statement in the prologue. Bam! Punchy attacks at selective moments where there was an advantage to gain: “I’m not sure that I deserve a death penalty.” And then sitting back and absorbing any other challenges, which were fairly limited.

How did he do?

However, I’m not sure whether Lance finished this particular race in yellow or carrying the lanterne rouge. For a man who was a consummate poker player on the bike, he was far less so off it, with his body language betraying him at moments of stress.

I looked for remorse, but for me he came off as cold, calculating and anything but sorry. Too many little smirks which betrayed his contempt for some of the other players in the drama. Too many carefully crafted statements which said no more than they were designed to say: “people I need to apologise to” (but have not done so and may never do so) and “I don’t like that guy” (classic dissociation strategy, referring to his former self in the third person). And every now and then his phraseology was revealing: as the truth started to come out, he described it as “the story was getting out of control”.

There were also too many inconsistencies too. He praised the biological passport while denying the 2009 findings which were so clearly positive that there was less than a one in a million chance he was riding clean. And although he repeatedly claimed a gradual acceptance that the whole house of cards was coming down, his litigious threats and that tweet suggest the opposite.

Lance tweetMost disappointing was the lack of specifics. Armstrong didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know from Emma O’Reilly, Betsy Andreu, Floyd, Tyler and USADA. There was some of the ‘what’, but no real ‘who’ or ‘how’. The tip of the iceberg – or maybe the tip of the needle? Will he ever testify properly?

Armstrong and his advisors had a clear picture of the man they wanted to portray, but revealed the man he really is. Lance won’t be winning any Oscars for a performance which was ultimately high on self-pity.

Now what?

As I said yesterday, we can be sure this is just the opening gambit in a long chess game for Armstrong as he seeks redemption and rehabilitation. But what comes next? He said he will be the first through the door if there is a truth-and-reconciliation process, but then he also promised a comprehensive and transparent testing programme prior to his 2009 comeback, which never happened. Will he ever name names and provide sworn testimony?

There is undoubtedly a plan, but what? More media interviews? Another book? A lucrative speaking tour? Political ambitions? Don’t be surprised if we see a drip-feed of new revelations over the coming months, just to keep media interest high. Only one thing is for sure: we have not seen the last of Lance Armstrong.

Oprah and Lance Armstrong

Tim’s initial thoughts

Kitty’s thoughts

Oprah and Lance Armstrong: Kitty’s thoughts

Here are my thoughts on Lance and Oprah – written after the first part of the interview but before the second.

Lance Evening Standard

What did we learn?

Lance Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs from the early days of his cycling career to the day of his first retirement. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Lance Armstrong did not dope when he made his comeback in 2009 because it wasn’t as easy, there is more sophisticated testing and the biological passport was doing a brilliant job at ensuring it was impossible to hide. Except the biological passport that said his blood levels had only a one in a million chance of happening naturally was wrong. So the biological passport works until it doesn’t.

Dr Ferrari is a good man, a kind man, a man who never ever gave Lance Armstrong doping advice, doping programmes, doping products. In fact, Dr Ferrari is Italian so probably doesn’t even know the word doping.

Lance Armstrong called Betsy Andreu crazy. He called her crazy but he never called her fat! Because that’s actually the worst thing you can do to a woman. Say she’s fat. Ruining her husband’s career, using smear tactics to discredit her, pursuing a vendetta for years and years and years was just, you know, something that he did. But he didn’t call her fat.

Lance Armstrong gladly gives money to organisations he isn’t a fan of because he had money and that organisation, the UCI, did not and they asked him for some of his. So shrug and throw them US$125,000. Which for millionaires is the equivalent of everyday Joes putting spare change in a charity box.

Lance Armstrong wasn’t going to talk about other people because he could only speak for himself. Unless that person – and he isn’t going to call them a liar – is not telling the truth. Then he’ll talk about them and say, “I’m not going to call anyone a liar, but that’s untrue. Categorically untrue.” So that means they’re lying, right?

It’s not that easy to influence the Department of Justice to drop an investigation against you. Lance Armstrong wasn’t able to do that. But he did know that it “isn’t that easy”. Which means it’s not impossible.

Lance Armstrong is a flawed character. Could have been the trailer park upbringing. Could have been watching his single mom struggle …

Need I go on?

Oprah and Lance Armstrong

Tim’s thoughts