Lance Armstrong – The Final Chapter?
What’s left to say about Lance Armstrong? I think I begin every Armstrong article with that sentence. On October 10th, 2012 we read a 1000 page report from USADA that told us everything we need to know and the conclusion was recognised by every governing body in sport. Will we be able to believe a word of Lance’s confession after so many lies? When history looks back at this, Oprah vs Lance will be the sporting world’s soft fluffy version of Frost vs Nixon.
First of all, I don’t see Lance’s mea culpa having anything to do with his own redemption. If that were the case, then he would be going to USADA to come clean and not Oprah Winfrey. He’s not going to Oprah so he can confess – he’s going to Oprah that he can be forgiven by the mainstream public. If you look up the definition of narcissistic personality disorder (and a good article on it here), all the clues are there. Recently I had some correspondance with a Psychologist who has hypothesised (who has never met or treated Lance of course), “Contrary to what most people think, Lance has a very fragile sense of himself. To overcome this he is fuelled by omnipotence, his behaviour is very much governed by this defence. Sadly he cannot derive satisfaction from normal relating. His ego demands that he be in the limelight in order to feel good about himself. It really is like he is severely detached from his real self.”
The WSJ reports that one of Armstrong’s goals with this interview/confession is to lay the groundwork for USADA to consider allowing him to compete in elite triathlons. As I said earlier, this probably goes much deeper into his psyche than just wanting to win an Ironman. He directed his lawyers to focus on figuring out how he could get back to competing in sanctioned triathlons, which he saw as his most reliable source of future income, according to one person familiar with that effort reported by the WSJ.
The WSJ also reported that Armstrong had begun making overtures to USADA about striking a deal; admit to past doping in exchange for a reduction in his lifetime ban. Lance and Tygart recently had a meeting at a conference room near the Denver airport with the following taking place:
Mr. Tygart told Mr. Armstrong that he had already had his chance to come clean, and that, at best, if he gave full cooperation, the ban would be eight years.
Mr. Tygart told Mr. Armstrong he stood accused of offenses that stretched beyond doping to a coverup marked by nearly 15 years of denials, threats and actions against anyone who told the truth about doping on the team.
When Mr. Armstrong told Mr. Tygart that he held the keys to his own redemption, said one person with knowledge of the meeting, Mr. Tygart responded: “That’s b—.” He told Mr. Armstrong that all he wanted to do was figure out a way to compete again.
Mr. Armstrong shot back that he would compete in unsanctioned races, hurled a profanity, and walked out.
Going On the Offensive
It’s no surprise that Lance is going on the offensive and could testify against officials from the UCI and several of the former team’s owners, including the investment banker Thomas Weisel. According to the NYTimes:
Acknowledging his doping past has cleared the way for Armstrong to take the next step in trying to mitigate his lifetime ban from Olympic sports. He is planning to testify against several powerful people in the sport of cycling who knew about his doping and possibly facilitated it, said several people with knowledge of the situation.
Armstrong, 41, is planning to testify against officials from the International Cycling Union, the worldwide governing body of cycling, about their involvement with doping in cycling, but he will not testify against other riders, according to the people familiar with his plans.
He is also in discussions with the United States Department of Justice to possibly testify in a federal whistle-blower case. That case involves the cycling team sponsored by the United States Postal Service, and Armstrong would testify against several of the team’s owners, including the investment banker Thom Weisel, and other officials, one person close to the situation said.
One good thing that could result if Armstrong testifies against Hein Verbruggen and Pat Macquaid is that this will affect cycling’s future, not just its past. However, there is news today of IOC member Dick Pound commenting that cycling could be removed from the Olympics if a widespread coverup is found.
The Commercial Component
This isn’t just an interview with a wonderful build-up around a confession, this is a massive money making opportunity. The Armstrong broadcast could well exceed the 3.5 million viewers for the show. Reports say that Lance is not being paid for the interview, but the interview is being broadcast simultaneously by the Discovery Network and Oprah’s OWN channel (partially owned by Discovery). If Discovery Channel’s sponsorship didn’t pay dividends in 2005, they’ll be making it back in advertising dollars during the broadcast on Friday. Have a read at Forbes’ article about the commercial strategy behind this Lance Armstrong interview.
Keep In Mind…
During this upcoming emotional confession with Oprah just remember his confrontation with Paul Kimmage, the victims of Lance’s strong-arm tactics (the LeMond’s, Andreu’s, Hamilton, Landis, Emma O’Reilly, Filippo Simeoni, etc), how he sued the Sunday Times for £300,000 in 2006, and many more incidents that he’d rather us forget. And if you have the time, read Nicole Cooke’s full retirement statement:
When Lance “cries” on Oprah later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward – just shattered dreams. Each one of them is worth a thousand Lances.
It’s certainly interesting to watch this train-wreck unfold. As I’ve said before, this has so many dimensions and ethical dilemmas which is what makes it such a polarising topic.
If I’m honest with myself however, it would be hypocritical for me to take the popular stance of hating Lance Armstrong. I was appalled at the reactions and disdain towards Graham Watson’s view on the subject. Hindsight is 20/20 and I would love to see if the many critics would have had the same courage that people like David Walsh, Paul Kimmage, Betsy Andreu, Emma O’Reilly, Greg LeMond, etc would have had during the gold rush.
There is not a doubt in my mind that everything had to come down to this, and Lance needs to own up to it. However, I was out riding this morning and having a chat with a former pro who raced against Lance for his whole career (and is still a fan of Lance). We both agreed that many of the thousands of riders on Beach Road this morning would most likely not be cycling if it weren’t for Lance. Lance brought cycling into the mainstream, inspired people to ride, and was the catalyst for today’s cycling boom that we all enjoy. I don’t think there’s any denying the end result has benefited us all. However, forgiving and forgetting his means to the end is not an option and I look forward to watching Lance vs Oprah on Friday at 4pm (AEST), no matter how contrived it is. I’d expect nothing less.
Update: Now the interview will be aired in two parts: Thursday, January 17, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET/PT (as previously announced) and Friday, January 18, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The interview will be simultaneously streamed LIVE worldwide both nights on Oprah.com.