Lance Armstrong apparently came clean to Oprah Winfrey on Monday by admitting to blood doping and using PEDs. One of his spokespersons said that he would speak “directly, honestly and candidly” to the talk show host. We get to see an edited highlight of that interview on Thursday on Oprah’s cable network, OWN.
I have long had mixed feelings about Lance Armstrong, most of them not so good. But finally telling some version of the truth to Oprah doesn’t make me feel any better about the guy.
What I do know is that Armstrong is a consummate salesman. Years ago he successfully sold just about everyone on a seemingly honest and miraculous story of overcoming life-threatening cancer and becoming a champion. As legend has it, his seven Tour de France titles were the result of Armstrong’s incredible will and his committment to training, hard work and faith and nothing else. He always vehemently denied drugs and blood doping ever played a part in his success.
But now we also know that Armstrong toyed with the admiration of legions of unsuspecting fans who celebrated his triumph over testicular cancer and bought whole the incredible symbol of hope that he became. And with each racing victory Armstrong was literally authoring one of the most inspirational sports stories ever told. The thing is only his victory over cancer was achieved honestly.
Lance Armstrong’s powerful fable was fortified by the establishment of one of the great charitable foundations of our time – Livestrong. Millions of yellow rubber Livestrong bracelets became iconic symbols of the fight against cancer. And helped the foundation raise millions of dollars for cancer research. Just as importantly those bracelets served to enhance Armstrong’s image and virtually inoculated him in the face of mounting suspicion that he didn’t win his races without illegal assistance.
To be fair though, Armstrong was the very best cyclist in what we’ve discovered was an almost totally corrupt sport. It turns out that just about every top cyclist over the last two decades has been implicated in the doping and PED scandal.
So yes, I get why Armstrong lied, and know that he wasn’t alone lying and cheating. I accept that he did what he believed he had to do to compete and win.
But what I don’t understand is the way he allegedly treated those who spoke to authorities about cycling’s doping scandal and his involvement. Some of those people at one time were Armstrong’s close friends and teammates. And if reports are true, Armstrong viciously tried to ruin the lives of some who spoke against him. I do hope Oprah asked him about those deplorable actions.
So what is the underlying motivation for him to tell his story now? Armstrong, who is as shrewd at public relations and cynical self-preservation as any sports figure has ever been, has to have an angle right? I have little doubt that this is all about winning sympathy and rehabilitating his image and very little about humility and contrition. But I wish I didn’t feel that way.
Nonetheless I will be watching closely to see if I’m wrong and he really does come clean and sound sincere for a change.
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