Liveblogging Lance Armstrong on Oprah
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Watch along with us at Oprah.com.
Contribute in the comments section below, or hit up your panel on Twitter:
- Christopher Keyes (@keyeser), editor of Outside
- Alex Heard (@alexheard), editorial director of Outside
- Bill Gifford (@billgifford), longtime Outside contributor
- Maiko (@mmmaiko), world’s sassiest bike-racing fan
And that’s a wrap. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Lance: Goodnight and good luck.
Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay on Twitter: “So does this mean Tyler can go back to Cache Cache?”
My totally unscientific sense of it: Lance is having a better night with the typical viewer.
Mounting cries of “Ask about Greg Lemond” on my Twitter feed. Not sure that exercise would yield much, except another semi-apology.
OK, Lance is denying something big: the alleged booty offer to USADA. Weak foller-up by Oprah. Not her strong suit.
David Carr (New York Times media reporter): “Oprah gets to bask in the sniffles a bit. She earned them. Came back again and again to kids until she got him to come undone.”
NYVelocity may hae just won the night: “Luke, I’m your father, and I’m a jerk.”
The “how is this affecting the kids?” portion brings the first recorded tear. Sure don’t seem faked.
Annnnd, ABC’s Neal Karlinsky on Lance’s assertions about how clean Tour/Lance were during first comeback ride: “Investigators say evidence totally refutes what Lance just said. blood showed doping in 09. records showed ongoing payments to Dr Ferrari.”
Bonnie Ford nailed it again on Twitter: “Did anyone know the whole truth?” “Yeah.” And then no follow-up.
You know … non-sarcastically … I bet Lance could do pretty well as a movie actor. Excellent voice. HAS HAD SOME PRACTICE ACTING. Would look good in a Lifetime Original. … Lance is overemphasizing how clean the sport was during his first comeback …
I completely believe that Lance has seekened therapy. He’s learned all the lingo. … Wait! Here comes the part about the women!
I think Lance is doing better tonight. That’s probably because most of the focus doesn’t involve asking him to get into the kinds of detail his lawyers warned him against. First quarter has basically been about him getting to kick his own ankles. Saying he wants to compete again is, obviously, honest enough. [This concludes our Sympathetic Portion.]
NYVelocity on Twitter: “Lance just wants to get back to kicking the butts of middle managers in masters races.”
“Those millions of people who believvvvved.” Opes is making more use of the thumbscrew verbal draw-out tonight.
“That is a guy who felt invincible … truly believed he was invincible.” This part sounds genuine. Lance is talking like an addict whose addiction was winning.
Bonnie Ford on Twitter: “Where was the balancing disillusioned email?”
I have trouble believing that Lance leaving Livestrong simply came down from On High, since he was the On High, but I dunno. Maybe it really happened that way.
This must be the “mush” portion of the interview that was written into the contract.
Oh, of course. It was the Livestrong bounce that was most humbling. “The Foundation was like my sixth child.”
“Everybody out.” But that was not the most humbling moment. What was? STAY TUNED.
By the way: where is Outside’s super-intern, Noah? I need to know he’s safe, especially after I popped off about Livestrong today.
Settling in to live-blog Oprah-Lance Part Deux. Got my OWN feed on, which tonight features the kind of music John Tesh would have written for that gymnastics screenplay of his that still needs to get made.
Bill Gifford (@billgifford)
Memo to @mmmaiko: It ain’t over yet! There’s part 2, remember? So I don’t think you can ring in “Year 0, A.D.” (After Doprah) until … tonight at 10:30 Eastern. (What? You had something better to do on a Friday night? Doprah don’t care.)
If it’s not too late, though, I think we need to re-hashtag this deal as #Doh!-prah, because part 1 appears to have gone over about as well as OJ’s book. Internet wildfires broke out, ignited by flaming-mad columns by the likes of ESPN’s Bonnie Ford. (Don’t miss her chilling account of an hour-long phone harangue from Non-doping Comeback Lance, circa 2009.) Recent convert Rick Reilly went even further, with a long tirade in which he suggested that Armstrong needed an immediate psychiatric evaluation. Even Howie Kurtz pronounced it a “Loss for Lance, A Win For Oprah,” while USA Today‘s Christine Brennan pretty much shuddered in disgust.
But, again, it’s not over. There’s a part 2, coming up in … a few minutes. And there’s a good chance that the narrative pendulum is going to swing back in Lance’s direction. The bad stuff is all on the table now: The bullying, the lying, the regret (however slight); the sheer cold-bloodedness of our former seven-time Tour champ has now been broadcast around the globe, commented on, psychoanalyzed, and all the rest.
Which means: It can’t get any worse. He’s got nowhere to go but up, from here. Tonight we’ll hear about cancer, about Livestrong, about his mom, his personal life. The squishy stuff. He’ll seem more human (unless he really isn’t). Oprah will inevitably point him toward some sort of redemption, or at least, she’ll try. She always does. We’ll see how it plays out, but I won’t be at all surprised if tonight ends up marking the end of the end of Lance Armstrong. I’m going to need more whiskey.
Before publishing Bill Gifford’s story on Livestrong and how little it actually raises for scientific research one year ago, we had no idea how dangerous it was to cross The Boss. Editorial director Alex Heard tells the inside story of our fight with Lance and his lawyers for the first time.
When I woke up this morning—this glorious first day of the cycling year 0 AD, After #Doprah—I had three people on my mind: Lance Armstrong, George Costanza and Hannah Arendt. Costanza for “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie … if you believe it!” and Arendt for the “banality of evil” concept. Lance, well, duh! The Costanza-Lance comparison has been done ages ago, but #Doprah demonstrated how difficult it is for anyone to deprogram oneself from one’s own lies. It was so easy for Lance to answer Yes to the big picture question “did you dope?” When it came down to details, however, Lance bargained and obfuscated to the point where Oprah had to ask if it’s all semantics. He dismissed testimonies given under oath by people like Christian Vande Velde or Betsy Andreu as “not true” or cryptically as “putting that one down.” What, like a dying pet? A beaten horse? A microdose of EPO can be flushed out of the body in hours, but a steady dose of lies will take a long time to leave his system.
And “banality of evil.” I don’t think I can go further before preemptively striking down claims I’m approaching Godwin’s Law territory. No, I am not settling into Nazi/Hitler name-calling. Hannah Arendt coined the phrase to describe how ordinary people can participate in atrocities by convincing themselves their actions were normal. Lance is by no means a genocidal dictator, but in watching the interview, I was struck by how boringly ordinary he seemed when he is on the defensive. His old “I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles” speech has been retired (or mercy killed). Now, he shrugs, “I know I’m not the most believable guy in the world right now.” He wore no flashy $5000 suit nor the Patrick Bateman psychopath charm. Just a guy, a guy who really wanted to win and hurt a lot of people. How did it go so wrong?
I wonder if we’d find the same ordinary man if UCI president Pat McQuaid or ex-president Hein Verbruggen–Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine of cycling, if you will–got the same dressing down. After all, when you drill down into doping’s most elemental core it’s the woefully ordinary desire to win, to be famous and rich, that enables the apparatus. On the first day of 0 AD the quest for clean cycling seems simultaneously like a never-ending Spy vs. Spy for a MacGuffin but also something fleetingly attainable because we all think we can be above our basest desires.
#Doprah, for sure, had its “AW HELLS NAW” moments, especially when Betsy Andreu and Emma O’Reilly were discussed. But the highlight for me was the zings and fact checks of outraged twattlers that had me “mesmerized and riveted” way more than the #Doprah show itself. I won’t out the especially clever, funny people or Outside will dump me like used syringes down the team bus toilet. Kidding! My Outside co-panelists are gentlemen. They will just ignore me like Lance when Floyd asked him for a spot on the team.
Finally, let’s talk #STRAWS. The most frustrating thing for me about #Doprah was that all instances of water drinking was edited out. I could hear the clinking of the stainless steel straw against the glass at one point. I saw a still in which Lance’s glass was 2/3 empty or 1/3 full. (Woa, metaphor alert!) Let me be the first to offer a conspiracy theory that once Lance showed up and saw the straws, he demanded all footage of him sucking on a straw be destroyed. He knows our merry cycling muppet army. Even if we forgave him for doping, we would never let the straw thing go.
Alex Heard (@alexheard)
Last night, Armstrong reminded me of Greg Mortenson—in a particular way that’s important to note as we evaluate what struck me as a largely cynical performance. As I watched him, I experienced a queasy feeling of déjà vu from back in 2011, when I interviewed Mortenson during his fatal meltdown weekend. The charges leveled against him by 60 Minutes and Jon Krakauer were bubbling up, and he had some explaining to do, both to his detractors and supporters.
Mortenson lied to me, of course, in a carefully calibrated manner that I’ve compared to someone losing ground on a battlefield. He knew where he had to give way—his creation myth story about wandering into the village of Korphe was about to be exposed as a fabrication—but instead of just saying, “Yeah, I made that shit up,” he tried to find a defensible modified version of the truth. A fresh foxhole, you might say, one that he hoped to be able to defend in the future. The story he told me wasn’t true, either, as I later realized to my chagrin.
I think Armstrong was doing something similar. As Bill says, the interview was absolutely riveting in the early going, when he admitted rat-a-tat-tat to various forms of cheating. But for much of the night he only admitted to general malfeasances (Yes, I am a bully) while evading specifics. The worst moment, much commented on since, came when he seemed unable to remember that “we” (Armstrong and his ravenous legal team) had sued Emma O’Reilly for telling the truth about him. This in response to a very simple question from Oprah: Did he owe her an apology?
I won’t replay all the examples of Armstrong being evasive; instead I’ll speculate as to why he’s playing this game. The generous take, which Chris mentioned in a tweet last night, is that he’s in the early stages of a long recovery process, and he’s not especially good at the “My Name Is Earl” part yet: making amends.
I think he’s still too good at being the Old Lance, that he wants to get something self-serving out of this apology kabuki, and that he’s using the “language of recovery” as a tool. (Like when he kept repeating how “scary” it was that Old Lance had such an intense competitive mindset, as if New Lance were a victim of an evil force.)
I continue to think the goal is to use a combination of P.R., fake remorse, and back room begging to slither his way out of the whistleblower lawsuit. That’s the one thing that could really destroy him, because of its potential for immense financial penalties.
Bill Gifford (@billgifford)
I’m going to be the first into the post-Oprah pool (originally typed “poop”), just because I live in the Eastern time zone.
I actually watched the show twice, sort of: Once on a plane, with its herky, expensive wi-fi, and then once at home, on Tivo. So I caught the opening few minutes, before things went skeezy, and they were mind-blowing. To see Lance Armstrong sitting, there, calmly answering “Yes” to questions that not too long ago would have gotten you The Stare, was simply amazing. He seemed chagrined, almost contrite—two emotions that he has never shown in public. “It was all a lie,” he said. He even admitted to being a “jerk,” which I found quite satisfying.
Then the feed went to hell, and I caught only moments here and there. Did you tell teammates to use banned drugs? … “I’m a fighter. My mom’s a fighter” … how he did not blood-dope during his comeback … and with regard to Betsy Andreu, “I never called her ‘fat.'”
Meanwhile, my Twitter feed boiled over with vitriol. The word “lying” came up a lot, as did “sociopath,” and “scary,” which Lance himself used a lot, in reference to Lance Armstrong. “Jerk,” too. The reviews were uniformly bad, though that may reflect the sort of people I follow on Twitter. According to their consensus, Armstrong was, once again, showing what a terrible person he is. “I had this naïve fantasy that he would bare his soul, exhibit contrition, abase himself, vow to make amends,” tweetled Austin Murphy of Sports Illustrated, who covered many of Armstrong’s Tour wins. “Seems laughable now.”
Piers Morgan was similarly unimpressed, as were most of these important people.
But when I watched all the way through, on Tivo, I have to say, I must have seen a different show. I didn’t see the evil, bullying Lance Armstrong who treated press conferences like cage matches. They weren’t fair fights, either; it was usually him and most of the room against the one or two writers who had the courage to ask real questions, like David Walsh and Paul “you are not worth the chair you are sitting on” Kimmage. In these settings, Lance subjected his enemies to ritual public humiliation, and he loved it.
In that hotel room with Oprah, though, he was definitely not in charge. She dominated him utterly, because she knew her stuff, and her questions were direct and often discomforting. Oprah ran a fantastic interview that far exceeded expectations. And he had no backup, no entourage, no silent army of sycophantic reporters. There were no Livestrong bands in sight. ESPN has the transcript here, but this was all about presence. He squirmed in his seat, hunched his shoulders together, and at particularly difficult moments, sort of pulled at his lip. I’m dying to hear what Chris’s body language expert has to say about this performance, but this seemed like a Lance that possibly only his wives and maybe Sheryl Crow have ever seen: Busted Lance.
Thanks for joining us tonight. We’ll see you tomorrow—same time, same place.
10:32 p.m. @alexheard
Phew! That was draining just to watch. I need me some clear on the rocks. Smarter people will sort this out, but I saw tweets saying Lance said at least two things that were “actionable.”
10:29 p.m. @alexheard
If Shakespeare had a character like Lance in a tragedy, he probably would have a “foole” beat him to death with a bladder in Act 1.
10:28 p.m. @alexheard
Not answering the most direct possible question about whether he’ll cooperate with USADA.
10:25 p.m. @alexheard
10:23 p.m. @alexheard
Ball is teed up for Lance to compare himself to the Honey Badger—”Territorial Lance didn’t give a shit!”—but he’s missing his cues.
10:22 p.m. @alexheard
I think Lance is sitting on the biggest egg since Horton.
10:18 p.m. @alexheard
“That’s VERY difficult to influence.” Hmmm, sounds like somebody at least tried.
10:16 p.m. @alexheard
“Third Law of Motion … what you put out, is gonna come back.” Oprah Physics.
10:16 p.m. @alexheard
Heard: “I deeply regret not making ‘tipping point’ a Drinking Game play.”
10:15 p.m. @alexheard
Looper Lance would like to go back in time and give Floyd a “spot on the team.”
10:09 p.m. @alexheard
“The whore word.” “I was just on the attack, Oprah. Territory being threatened …” Territory being threatened means never having to say you’re sorry, I guess. Amazing how he keeps dancing around a direct apoligy to Emma.
10:09 p.m. @alexheard
“I called you crazy. I called you a bitch … But I never called you fat.” That wasn’t in the Drinking Game, but DRINK!!!!
10:06 p.m. @alexheard
“I’m gonna put that one down.” WTF?
10:04 p.m. @alexheard
Kinda wish the breaks were longer, so I could eat more of my special Blog Pizza.
10:03 p.m. @alexheard
Betsy Andreu! But you can’t drink unless he apologizes to her … after the break. RACE RADIO tweets: “Instead of ‘Reaching out to Emma.” why not say RIGHT NOW that she is not a drunk whore?”
9:57 p.m. @alexheard
9:57 p.m. @alexheard
NOT A FAN OF THE UCI: Got it. You can stop saying that every six seconds.
9:57 p.m. @alexheard
ABC’s Neal Karlinsky: “Lance planned perfectly for cheating in the Tour. Doesn’t seemed to have planned perfectly for Oprah. Rxn online v. negative so far.”
9:54 p.m. @alexheard
@mmmaiko is JUSTIFIABLY angry that we don’t get to see Lance or Oprah using the stainless-steel straws.
9:51 p.m. @alexheard
Well put by Don Van Natta Jr. on Twitter: “Lance has slipped comfortably into this Semi-Contrition Comeback Kid role. Maybe it’s cathartic. But, damn, Lance seems to be enjoying this.”
9:51 p.m. @alexheard
SLAPP Lawsuits to be discussed after the break! Finally.
9:49 p.m. @alexheard
“I didn’t understand the magnitude of that following.” Oh, bullshit. Look at any of the old puffer interviews Lance did with people like Charlie Rose before the roof caved in. They spent a lot of time talking about how Lance could “best us” his awesome power and clout.
9:47 p.m. @alexheard
Lance has picked up some sweet therapy deflection-cliches. Him being a lyin’ bastard becomes a “scary” situation he was in.
9:46 p.m. @alexheard
Stop wasting time with these “tell me what you feel” questions. He’s already showed that he’s capable to self-flagellation and self-shaming. With all that prep you did (Oprah), you should stay on the facts.
9:43 p.m. @alexheard
Serena Williams on Twitter: “Wow. Watching @Oprah interview. Just WOW.”
9:41 p.m. @alexheard
Yes, Lance just admitted to the crime of perjury on the air. But he’s past the statute of limitations on that one, so he gets a pass … I think. Somebody holler if that’s wrong.
9:38 p.m. @alexheard
Fame corrupts! Absolute fame corrupts absolutely!
9:37 p.m. @alexheard
It is NOT all out there, Lance. He’s holding stuff back all over the place. See ya in federal court, chummo.
9:35 p.m. @alexheard
Drink! Ferrari comes up, and Lance doubles down by calling him a good man. I think my Twitter feed is about to start gushing out lava.
9:33 p.m. @alexheard
Neal Karlinsky on Twitter: “The bully admission needs a follow … investigators say he didn’t just bully … he destroyed. Lawsuits, threats, serious stuff.”
9:28 p.m. @alexheard
Actually, I now think Drinking Game players scoring at home should check the Bully Box. He just blamed his bullying on “not being able to control the narrative.” He must have consulted in advance with a bro’ at the New School for Rationalization Research.
9:27 p.m. @alexheard
Lance admits to being a bully! Don’t drink! But drink during the “my mom” portion. I hoping this touching story ends with a discussion of the IROCZ abandoned by Young Lance when the cops were on his ass.
9:23 p.m. @alexheard
Can’t read his mind, of course, but that answer about Christian V. and strong-arming looked and sounded like a lie. Meanwhile, someone just tweeted that “Frankie just threw something at the TV.”
9:18 p.m. @alexheard
Proud to note: Don Catlin’s plan for blood passpots—which Lance just said was effective, joining many other riders making the same statement—was first outlined in Outside’s pages in a profile of Catlin by Brian Alexander.
9:00 p.m. @alexheard
Amazing how an event like this blows away all your sarcasm once it’s actually underway. This is amazing.
9:00 p.m. @alexheard
Bonnie D. Ford on Twitter: “Most surreal moment of my career. His too, I’m guessing.”
9:00 p.m. @alexheard
Lance placed the start of his doping in mid-90s, which isn’t quite consistent with Stephen Swart statements about doping at Motorola, is it?
9:00 p.m. @alexheard
Will I need a bike helmet for this?
Christopher Keyes (@keyeser)
Since most of my theories and predictions have been batted down already, I thought it was time to bend reality to my will. Remember when I predicted, in my very first post, that at least one major news outlet would talk to a body language expert to help viewers determine Armstrong’s level of contrition on Doprah? Well, what if I told you that had actually happened? And that the “major news outlet” was… Outside?
This morning I called up Patti Wood, renowned body language expert—and, according to her bio: professional speaker, spokesperson, corporate consultant, trainer, coach, and author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma. Whew. When I asked if I could talk to her about Lance Armstrong’s interview tonight, she responded: “Oh, my goodness. Yes!”
Now that I’m an instant expert in both body language and paralanguage, I can tell you that Wood’s answer conveyed one hundred percent sincerity and that she really wanted to speak to me. As Oprah might say, “She came READY.” Here’s what she told me to look for:
OPEN BODY WINDOWS
These include Armstrong’s toes, knees, pelvis, heart, throat, mouth, eyes, and the palms of his hands. “When someone is authentic and truly sincere about their statements,” says Wood, “typically those windows are open. Arms aren’t folded, legs aren’t crossed, the feet are pointed towards the person they’re speaking to.”
A specific one to watch is the mouth window. (“Where the truth comes out,” says Wood.) If someone is reticent or not authentic, the mouth is likely to tighten up or press down. And watch Lance’s lips. “I’m guessing he’ll lick his lips or moisten his lips before he speaks because that’s normal for anxiety,” says Wood. “If he’s not licking his lips before he speaks, he’s not showing anxiety that would be normal in these circumstances. If he licks his lips after he speaks, that would be an indication that he wants to erase what he just said and that he doesn’t feel sincerely contrite.”
When Lance speaks, is bringing his chin up? Having watched him in the past, Wood says that this is actually a baseline characteristic for the way he usually does interviews, and it’s a cue that conveys “I am superior to you.” “Typically when people are humiliated or doing this kind of statement, the chin goes down,” she says. “That’s what we normally do in shame. So even if his chin is even or level, that would be a baseline change for him that shows a level of contrition.”
When he’s asked the toughest questions by Oprah, do Lance’s hands close down, tighten up, or become weapon like? Wood says he might chop at the air—something he does several times in this video—a gesture she calls “symbolic weapon” hand movements. “I’ll be looking for anything that shows he’s upset about being put in a corner,” says Wood. “The opposite would be keeping the hands open, keeping the palms upward facing, which would show that he’s humble about what has happened.”
IS HE ACTING?
Listen for paralanguage, which Wood says is one of the best indicators of honesty. If he is embarrassed, his voice will get tight and high. If he’s acting, it will remain confident and consistent and strong throughout his statements. The senetences will sound rehearsed. “If someone is feeling really badly,” says Wood, “their voice will reveal more. It will be more strained and you can hear the tension in the vocal chords. If it’s sounds strong and confident, that might indicate that it’s a rehearsed statement without emotion.”
THE CRY COVER
Wood says that when a man is trying really hard to control their emotional state, he’ll bring the corners of his mouth down, something she refers to as a “cry cover.” See her blog for classic examples from Blagojevich and Spitzer confessions. “Seeing that will tell me that Lance is sincerely feeling horrible about this,” says Wood.
On this one, it’s most important to look for the timing of the expression. If Lance displays a good cry cover when Oprah asks, say, “How does it feel to lose all of your titles?” it may not mean that much since he’s feeling badly about something that affects him personally. The question that Wood is anticipating the most is, “How do you feel about the fact that you betrayed so many former friends when you called them liars or discredited their claims against you?”
“If he doesn’t struggle to answer that particular question, I will be disappointed,” says Wood, because that’s something that affects people other than himself. What he did to the Andreus, Mike Anderson, Emma O’Reilly, and other close friends and associates “was real betrayal on many different levels,” says Wood. “I think he’s probably rationalized his own drug use, but betraying friends is another level of complexity.” In other words, if goes to a cry cover when his old friends are brought up, we may be seeing a man who is truly sorry for what he did. Which is also another cue to drink.
I am totally bonking trying to keep up with #Doprah and now there’s a 33-page PDF for the whistleblower lawsuit to skim. Anyone want to carb load on banana bread? I have Lance’s mom’s recipe, which is rich in butter and subtext. Someone should option this recipe—written in doting sing-song prose—if they don’t have the scratch to buy the movie rights to Lance’s Comeback Trilogy, Episodes IV-VI. (IV! Get it? So clever!)
My favorite part of the recipe? Linda’s description of the perfect bananas: “Try to catch them when they’re just a little past their prime, looking for their last chance to contribute something meaningful to the world.” Oh, sweet irony! She never imagined her son would be the disgraced ex-top banana of professional cycling, looking for his chance to contribute something meaningful to salvage what remains of his tainted legacy.
I’m pretty sure this recipe makes actual banana bread and it isn’t Dr. Ferrari’s training plan in secret code. Hey, you really ought to slather that warm slice of banana bread with butter. Kik, go get the butter!
1 stick butter (softened, of course)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk (and don’t even think about substituting something gutless like 2 %)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups flour
2 mashed bananas (try to catch them when they’re just a little past their prime, looking for their last chance to contribute something meaningful to the world)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Now, don’t just plop everything into a bowl. You’re doing this for someone you love, so you want to do it right. Heat up the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, bananas, and vanilla into a lovely, ooey-gooey mess. Mix the buttermilk and soda together. Add that to the sweet, creamy banana mess. Gradually add the flour and salt so you don’t have that clumpy lumpy flour thing going on, and when you’ve got all that thoroughly stirred up, add the chopped nuts. Pour your batter into a greased and floured loaf pan and bake for one hour or until the center is done. You may want to have your loved one standing by with a serrated knife and a cup of coffee, because it’s best to sit right down and have some together while it’s still warm.
The Taiwanese animated news of #Doprah: Lance is a helmet-wearing vampire with a secret chamber of roid rage athletes. Also his yellow jerseys inexplicably have Team BMC logos on them.
Alex Heard (@alexheard)
It’s been pointed out that our Doprah roundtable isn’t fair because there are three guys—and one ninja supervixen with a secret identity and a grudge—who don’t have much sympathy for Lance. Guilty as charged, but I can tell you that we made an effort to find such a person. Unfortunately, @mmmaiko intercepted him on the way to his keyboard: all that was left was a pile of feathers, a yellow bracelet, and a gift certificate for paniagua, redeemable at any Soup ’R Crackers franchise in northern California.
To right this wrong, I’ve been looking for online pieces by non-troll people whose views are a little more forgiving. (Or even semi-forgiving.) Here’s one I found interesting: “Fatty Interviews … Fatty,” an assessment by an overweight biker-blogger who got involved with Livestrong several years ago and has been wrestling for a while with his reactions to Lance’s cheating.
I was already aware of Fatty because he reviewed @billgifford’s story about Livestrong on his blog (didn’t like it when it came out and still doesn’t) and because I’ve noticed that some Twitter people who follow bike racing think he’s a gasbag. But I liked this piece’s sincerity, even though Fatty relies on the shopworn gimmick of interviewing himself. He certainly doesn’t give Lance a pass, and you are reminded—especially through photos like this one—that Lance has helped a lot of people push through their pain. (Susan died in 2009.) After the interviews air, will people like Fatty be more or less inclined to support Lance again?
Christopher Keyes (@keyeser)
Whoa. Someone left this on my desk this morning. (Thank you, whoever you are.) Sometimes haters want to hate about Outside’s fawning coverage of Lance Armstrong in the past, but this is a great reminder of the fact that we were waaaaay out in front of this one. 2004.
Predictably, some choad will claim that we’ve photoshopped or enhanced this, but I assure you it is completely clean. This is the most tested cover in the history of testing covers. (What looks suspiciously like Scotch tape is actually sweat stains because Lance had just returned from a really tough ride.)
So let it be known: Outside is hereby absolved of any lingering guilt associated with our nearly decade-long role in relentlessly promoting and cashing in on the Armstrong myth, no matter what my predecessor says.
Alex, you should have shared that scotch with me! The kryptonite rage cage didn’t arrive in time for Sally Jenkins on Charlie Rose. It would be easier to type out “MEOWRRRRRR!!! *SWIPE!!*” on my itty bitty phone keyboard to designate a cat fight takedown but I will not take that shortcut.
I feel I’ve been remiss not studying up on Bill Clinton’s Silver Fox Playbook for Impeachments and Other Inconveniences. This little tactical manual has seen more action in #Doprah than Johan Bruyneel’s Dr. Ferrari, or How I Stopped Worrying about Tactics and Love the Dope.
Lance began long ago with “I did not have doping relations with the med waste found by meddling France 3 reporters.” Last night, Sally Jenkins went with the “it depends on what ‘doping’ is” semantics offensive, punching way above her weight, I’d say.
Good ol’ Sally, describing herself as an “outlier” when it comes to doping discourse, liberated us from the Manichean black/white view of doping with her 50 shades of grey. Some drugs are therapeutic. Some are performance enhancers. Sally proposed to evaluate doping on this therapy-enhancement axis rather than saying it’s straight-up unethical. Well, she said something like that but in a way that sounded dumber and less convincing.
Look, Sally, I am an injury-prone runner constantly struggling with hamstring this, IT band that. I very rarely have a great run that doesn’t hurt somewhere. One day, my run was what Italian cyclist Daniel Oss would call “fucking and perfect!!!” The next day, it was even more fuckinger and perfecter. Why? I was on a tapered dose of prednisone for illness unrelated to running. Was prednisone in this case therapeutic? Yes. Performance enhancing? Duh, YES. Cycling stage races are as much about overnight recovery as speed, endurance or tactics, triply so in a three week Grand Tour like Tour de France. Is a blood transfusion therapeutic as recovery aid? And is that performance enhancing? Bear. Shit. Woods.
Sally, you have been pwned. Please surrender your copy of the Clinton Playbook. Lance was not authorized to let you have a peek. Have a glass of chocolate milk, girl. I hear it’s great for recovery. Round 2 after #Doprah interview? Air kisses!
Bill Gifford (@billgifford)
I think Chris is onto something here—the plight of the aging athlete. Imagine if you had to give up your career, a career you loved, just because you turned 40. This thing you’ve done all your life, since you were twelve, just goes away. That would suck, right? And we already knew Lance hated it, because his first attempt at retirement barely lasted three years. In retrospect, it might have been a good idea for him to stay retired. Because unlike most athletes, Lance actually had a Plan B, which was to become this sort of global cancer statesman, traveling the world and preaching to adoring crowds on behalf of Livestrong. But now that’s off the table, too, at least for now.
But unlike with, say, Brett Favre, I don’t think there’s as much of a divide between competition and life, for Lance; it’s all a competition, with the highest possible stakes. Lance hates to lose, famously. If you gave him a FitBit, one of those little devices that tracks how many steps you take in a day, he’d be out there trying to climb more flights of stairs than anyone else. The motivating force behind this premature bid for forgivenness, I think, is Lance’s anger that he has been so thoroughly and publicly defeated by someone like Travis Tygart, whom he surely considers a “choad.” But as Joe Lindsey points out in this great column, it’s a forgivenness that he has not yet earned. So it’s a gamble. And even before one second of Doprah has aired, some of the reviews have been pretty harsh. (Just as an aside, I’d pay good money to see a Christine Brennan/Sally Jenkins cage match.)
So for what it’s worth, Chris, I don’t think he’s counting on a return to competition anytime soon; according to his Strava profile, at least, he hasn’t been riding all that much at all lately. He’s in a more serious kind of race. And pretty soon, @renardfantastiq is going to owe me a Bourbon.
Alex Heard (@alexheard)
Sorry to be late to the filing game today, but after watching Sally Jenkins on Charlie Rose last night, I got so agitated that I had to coax myself to sleep by sipping scotch and watching a half-dozen reruns of my favorite patheticism comedy, “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Christine (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a loser and wine drunk who has serious judgment problems when it comes to picking men. Sally (played by Sally Jenkins) is a winner who, I must say, sounded kinda like a dry drunk as she rambled on in defense of her man, Lance Armstrong.
Obviously, I was not surprised that she chose to stand by him. She wrote two books with Armstrong and she’s made it clear in print that she thinks he’s been scapegoated by USADA. And I’m sympathetic to reasoned critiques of USADA’s and WADA’s sometimes power-grabby tactics, since I’ve edited stories on that theme by Brian Alexander, who can be eloquently critical of both organizations.
But Sally wasn’t eloquent, and I have to wonder if she really wanted to make that appearance. Either by her demand or Rose’s choice, she was put on the air separate from a panel of Lance-critical journalists—Daniel Coyle, Juliet Macur, and David Epstein—who I’m sure would have thrown her a little cable-news grief if given the chance. In defense of Lance, she said he “beat cancer fair and square” (is there some other way? like with banned performance-enhancing cancer-fighting drugs?), criticized drug-testing policy in a speech that didn’t make much sense, and shredded her own credibility as a journalist by actually stressing that her friendship with Lance influences her opinions about the facts.
“I belong in the category of friend and associate,” she said at one point. Rose asked: Had Lance apologized to her? “He said he was sorry for misleading me,” she replied, and that “he was sorry my reputation had taken a hit.” How did that make her feel? “I feel disappointed, but he’s my friend.”
Whether Joe Paterno is looking down at us or up at us, he must be feeling a little screwed. Jenkins scored the last interview with Paterno before his death, and he lied to her, a fact that became clear later when the Freeh Report was released. Sally was not so merciful then. “Joe Paterno was a liar, there’s no doubt about that now,” she wrote on July 12, 2012. “He was also a cover-up artist. If the Freeh Report is correct in its summary of the Penn State child molestation scandal, the public Paterno of the last few years was a work of fiction. In his place is a hubristic, indictable hypocrite.”
All those statements apply equally to Lance, but Sally can’t bring herself to make them. If this weren’t so pathetic, it might be funny.
Christopher Keyes (@keyeser)
Since we’re at risk of being lapped by notafanofLIEstrong (see comments, below), I thought I better get another post up while @billgifford, @mmmaiko, and @alexheard keep doing whatever it is they’ve been doing for the last 16 hours. I want to talk about the plight of the aging athlete. How much of Lance’s current actions are motivated by his inability to let go of his professional athletic career? If you trust the League of Anonymous Sources, it’s the motivation. And if he’s only confessing so that he can get back into competition, this would have to go down as one of the most misguided, hard-to-watch, last-ditch bids for greatness since Brett Favre spent a year with the Jets and started texting photos of his penis. After all, a confession leaves him vulnerable to legal action on several fronts and he’s now 41 years old. The window has closed.
Or has it? Last summer, less than a month before USADA sent its letter to Armstrong’s lawyers laying out its case and effectively barring him from competition, Armstrong was on a tear. On June 2, he won the Ironman 70.3 in Hawaii in dominating fashion, breaking the course record by six minutes. It was his second Half Ironman victory in two weeks. Though he’d yet to race at a full Ironman distance, these wins had put him on a trajectory to be a legitimate wild card contender at Kona in October. Even at 40, you couldn’t discount his chances. The previous year, Australian Craig Alexander beat the 15-year-old course record at age 38. Lance Armstrong was painfully close to claiming a world championship in an entirely new sport. From this vantage, the USADA case didn’t exactly end an athletic career that was no longer competitively relevant. It ruined the next amazing chapter. This has to have been eating away at Armstrong. Imagine what was going through his mind last October. Instead of competing at Kona, he was reduced to participating in the unsanctioned—and in no way sucompetitively relevant—Rev3 Half Full Triathlon in Ellicott City, Maryland.
The man really, really wants to be at Kona, and his motivations aren’t entirely misguided. Sure, he’s pursuing a deal with USADA to try to find a legitimate way back there. But I also think he’s angling for another route to the finish line if Tygart shuts him down, and that’s where the Oprah confessional fits in. (Bill, I’m sure you can come up with a race tactics metaphor here, but I’m failing.) It’s no secret that the World Triathlon Corporation struggled mightily with the decision to bar Armstrong from competing at Kona last year after the USADA letter went public. NBC had signed on to air a Kona special two weeks after the event, and losing Lance meant losing an incredible chance at exposure. The sport of triathlon may be thriving when it comes to participation levels, but there’s no spectator fan base or serious media attention for its races, which is what a sport really needs to bring in big-time sponsor dollars. Lance would have changed that.
Lance can’t bring sponsors to anymore, but he can still bring huge exposure, so he hasn’t lost all of his leverage. I wonder if, by confessing to Oprah, Armstrong is giving WTC CEO Andrew Messick another way to let him back in to the sport. Lance knows USADA isn’t popular, and the more he can convince the public that he’s confessed his sins and that his lifetime ban is way too harsh—especially when compared to what his former teammates got for breaking the same rules—the more cover he provides for Messick should he want to break with USADA and move to let Armstrong back in. Current competitors would be outraged, of course, but the potential exposure might be too hard for the WTC to pass up. I guess what I’m saying is, Armstrong is still spending a lot of time on his bike in Hawaii, and it’s not just to escape the media. He’s planning to be in Kona come October, not Ellicott City, Maryland.
Bill Gifford (@billgifford)
Aha, now we’re seeing some bike-racing strategy: Send a teammate up the road to cover the breakaway. Only in this case it’s Sally Jenkins, not Floyd Landis. I bet Lance wishes he’d found a job for Floyd, back in 2008. Then he’d be on Oprah talking about Livestrong Summit 4.0, in St. Moritz, instead of this.
I’m inclined to agree with Heard and Maiko, that The Interview isn’t really aimed at anyone likely to be reading this exchange. He’s going for the “Who cares if he took steroids?” crowd.
So it’s silly to expect him to fill in the missing bits of The Secret Race. Like almost every other confessed doper in history, he’s going to deliver a sanitized, self-serving version of the truth. Oprah herself telegraphed as much to CBS News, saying, “I feel that he answered he questions in a way that he was ready,” — i.e., he had talking points, and he stuck to them as best he could. His answers will be precisely calibrated to satisfy the know-nothings, while infuriating his enemies.
We’re going to hear an awful lot—from both Lance and his domestique, Jenkins—about how “everyone else was doing it.” That line may be his last hope, as it’s the only thing that seems to have traction with the likes of Howard Stern [he talked about Lance on Monday, maybe the online geniuses can find a link?]. Everyone was doing it, so it’s OK. I could rant at length about why that’s untrue, and immoral, or you could just read The Onion’s great faux-Lance-confession spoof:
Obviously, nobody is proud of systematically manipulating the American people into thinking their spectacular athletic triumphs were legitimate when, in reality, they owe every last one of those victories to the use of illegal chemicals. But no one ought to be ashamed of it, either, for all of us have done it, whether by condemning honest journalists as liars, hypocritically firing our personal trainer Michele Ferrari for becoming too closely associated with steroids, or simply denouncing all investigations against us as “a pitiful charade.”
I used steroids. You used steroids. Your friends and coworkers used steroids. Your children have all used steroids. President Obama has used steroids. Show me someone who claims they haven’t used steroids, and I will show you a liar.
That piece ran last August; I’ll bet that Doprah ends up proving yet again that when it comes to the Lance story, satire and the truth are never far apart.
Being a Bay Area hippie, I want to explore the notion of forgiveness that Bill and Chris brought up. Most people who will watch #Doprah have absolutely no idea the far-reaching effects of Lance and his team’s organized doping on cycling. The domestic US racing circuit for 2013 has fewer teams and races due to sponsors backing away after USADA’s reasoned decision. I’ve heard as many as 80+ riders (in a field of only a few hundred domestic pros) are without contracts, and I have no idea how many mechanics, soigneurs, etc. are out of work. Women’s cycling–where the running joke is that riders don’t earn enough money to bother doping–has been hit hard with shrinking budgets and disappearing races as well. And this is pre-Lance confession. I’d hate to see what will happen to professional cycling after Wonderboy admits to doping to an international audience.
Those who aren’t perennial cycling fans seem firmly convinced that every single professional cyclist of that era doped. That simply isn’t true and it is, for me, one of the most frustrating things to hear. To most Americans, Lance equals cycling. Media coverage has become an echo chamber of the same people connected to his case being asked to comment. There’s no mainstream venue for clean riders, past and present, to tell their stories because none are household names. Some were pushed out of the sport completely, either by inhuman pace of doped racing or by intimidation for speaking out. Many American racers left Europe, where there are bigger races and bigger contracts, to ride in the US. Many never even got to Europe because doping happens even in amateur races. I’d love for those saying “everyone doped” to hear stories of clean riders like Michael Creed, who rode for US Postal/Discovery, or Adam Myerson, a well-respected rider and outspoken anti-doping advocate, to name a few. Yesterday, 2008 Olympic gold medalist Nicole Cooke retired and wrote a beautifully scathing farewell note to pro cycling, in which she mentioned Lance and Tyler Hamilton by name as people who stand to profit from doping confessions while clean riders like her struggle in obscurity.
These are points that will never get addressed on Oprah or on Good Morning America or on ESPN, for that matter. Because they never get addressed, doping in sports–not just in cycling–will always be tolerated by most casual fans. I don’t know if mainstream sports like baseball or football have a staunch anti-doping fan contingent. I doubt it. Cycling definitely has a strong core of fan-advocates for clean sport. We’re familiar with stories of ethical athletes cheated out of opportunities. Some anti-doping advocates who race as amateurs had to deal with teammates who doped. So, if Lance is sincere about making amends, the bar for his doping mea culpa will be set higher than for athletes in other sports.
And no, many hardcore cycling fans are not holding our breaths for a sincere apology, even if lack of oxygen may increase our aerobic threshold.
Alex Heard (@alexheard)
There’s another whopper of an interview taking place during this already exciting week: Sally Jenkins, author (with Lance Armstrong) of It’s Not About the Bike and Every Second Counts, will be on Charlie Rose tonight talking about Lance and #Doprah.
Jenkins has been steadfast in her support of Armstrong, even after USADA issued its historic report laying out a staggering amount of evidence that he’d cheated to win. She last weighed in on December 15, 2012, in a Washington Post column called “Why I’m Not Angry At Lance Armstrong.” Jenkins went all the way, agreeing with Armstrong that he’s been the target of a USADA witch hunt, crediting him (incorrectly) with raising $500 million for cancer “research,” and questioning the very nature of USADA’s anti-doping program. She even said she loves him, though she meant that in a Platonic, I-admire-the-cancer-fighter sort of way.
I’ve disagreed with Jenkins on most Lance-related points, but I can’t wait to hear what she has to say. I hope Rose asks her why she didn’t “get the get”—an exclusive interview with Armstrong, like the one she scored with Joe Paterno when his world was falling apart—and whether she’s the least bit angry about getting edged out by Oprah.
Christopher Keyes (@keyeser)
The twitter memes are flying fast and furious today. Here are my five personal favorites:
5. Armstrong doping denials—a supercut
4. Lance Armstrong did rugs
3. Tear doping
2. E.T. homage
1. This tweet. My favorite of the day so far.
— Daily Intel (@DailyIntel) October 31, 2012
Alex Heard (@alexheard)
Lance’s “You don’t hold the keys to my redemption!” sounds an awfully lot like “You’re not the boss of me!” … a favorite saying of nursery-school kids and famed U.S. Postal domestique Cliff Clavin.
On my Twitter feed, I keep seeing references to Lance’s motives and master plan in all this, as if he’s a brilliant, lighted-from-below Wehrmacht general pushing pieces around on a map. I wonder about that, especially since Lance was apparently surprised that Oprah was relentless during the first hour of their interview. (Yo, the girl is from Mississippi. Did you expect her to bring a box of Kleenex to a knife fight?)
If there is a plan, it’s an incredibly risky one, as Outside contributor Brian Alexander pointed out a few weeks ago, in his analysis of what Lance might lose by confessing. On Twitter yesterday, Brian expressed chagrin that Lance had ignored the bottom line of the legal advice he’d gathered from experts: shut up and stay shut up. Brian worried that he’d been mistaken in his assessment. It may be Lance who’s making the mistake.
Lance’s grand calculation, in my estimate, goes like this. Because he’s an egomaniac (my diagnosis, but I’m qualified to make it because of my Boy Taxidermist medical background), he’ll do anything and curb-bash anybody to get back to where he wants to be. Where’s that? Someplace other than Jose Canseco Weird Guy Limbo Land, I suppose.
He seems OK with punting huge amounts of money in civil actions that he’ll either lose outright or have to settle at a loss. Presumably, he’ll stay out of jail if he gives useful information to the federal government, WADA, etc. I think he’s counting on a respectable public role as an athlete/awareness-raiser after his Oprah penance—which may be obtainable with the bulk of the public, though it will never happen with bike people who have followed Lance and his wicked ways closely over the years. Yesterday, I asked one of them about the issue of forgiveness for Lance. This person replied: “He can go to hell or jail, or both.”
As @mmmaiko suggested in her first post, I think Lance’s goal is to talk over the heads of these malcontents and connect directly with people who don’t know much about bike racing, accept inaccurate clichés like “Hey, Lance was just first among cheaters,” and still think Livestrong pays for “cancer research.” If they buy in—and we’ll get a sense of that from polls and news reports after the interview—Lance will have won an important first round.
Christopher Keyes (@keyeser)
Sadly, my brilliant theory about the link between bad Damien Hirst art being devalued in the marketplace and Lance Armstrong’s decision to confess has been officially debunked. As @shaneferro explains:
While this is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it’s also blatantly ridiculous. Let’s just start with the fact that a decline in value doesn’t make a collection unsellable (though the commoditization of Hirst’s market would make a sale more difficult) and progress to the fact that Armstrong collects a number of different artists, not just Hirst, meaning, if he’s been smart over the last few years, his collection is probably worth a ton, at least for now. It’s also possible that the cyclist was ahead of the curve on the Hirst market: he sold his Hirst-designed butterfly bike back in 2009.
I have to agree with @shaneferro’s analysis, except the part about my theory being “somewhat tongue-in-cheek.” It was more like “mostly entirely” tongue-in-cheek.
So, cycling fairy godmother’s magic went *poof* at zero dark thirty and Lance “Stop Snitchin” Armstrong may become King Rat who takes down the UCI? None of this feels real. Is it real? Or is this an inception of a redemption (BWAAAAAAP!)? Those stainless steel straws Chris pointed out in the interview photo look like totems screaming, “This isn’t real! Who actually uses steel straws to drink water?? WAKE UP!”
While longtime Lance doubters like myself are having a holy shit moment, the irresistible force of #Doprah is having no effect on the immovable object that is #Livestrong supporters. Search results for the hashtag brings up the same ol’ “I don’t care if he cheated because charitable work” song from the chorus. (Most of these people probably do not know who won Tour de France 2012, nor give two squats about it.) And while ESPN, like other mainstream media outlets, is finally comfortable saying Lance doped, it’s interesting to note SportsCenter’s Stuart Scott just announced that his cancer has returned using the #Livestrong tag.
More things turn bizarro in the cycling world, the more they stay the same everywhere else, eh? While I’m riveted by the overall arc of what happens to Lance, UCI and cycling, I’m also curious if or how fandom for our little niche sport will change when the dust settles. My goodness, will there be a historic Cycling Troll Cease Fire of 2013? Will we actually have to argue about race tactics and which team has the sexiest kit?
Christopher Keyes (@keyeser)
Well, we still don’t know the exact motives for Armstrong’s confession but we can now confirm this: Oprah intends to milk this opportunity for every drop of eponymous-network-saving attention she can. The broadcast will now span two nights.
Christopher Keyes (@keyeser)
Alex, I heard that Cowherd interview with Frankie Andreu as well. It got much better after he stopped IDing the former Armstrong teammate as “Frankie Andrew” (his producer must have corrected him off the air). Even after all that has transpired this year, I was still taken aback when Andreu answered Cowherd’s controversy bait—”Is Lance a bad guy?”—with a resounding and unqualified, “Yes, he is a bad guy.” That kind of honesty was unheard of a year ago and speaks to the level of pent up outrage against Lance, especially among those who were the targets of his smears. (For those who have forgotten: Frankie and his wife Betsy testified that they were in a hospital room in 1997 with Lance when he admitted to his doctors that he’d used PEDs in the past. Lance responded by telling the press that Betsy was, among other things, “bitter,” “vindictive,” “jealous,” and “ugly and homely.”)
Recently, I listened to the recording of the last interview I had with Lance and found a good example of one of his infamous, over-the-top smears. It was 2009, right after Lance had announced his comeback. I asked him about his press conference at Interbike in Las Vegas, where Greg Lemond showed up in the audience to ask him pointed questions about his new plans for a rigorous drug testing program designed by Don Catlin. Here’s how he characterized Greg’s remarks:
“It was really sad. I think in a lot of ways [Greg] lost a lot of credibility that day with the press. … Greg’s got issues. It’s a sad story, all the way from his failed relationships with everyone in his life. And I talk about loyalty, being around the same people, reinforcing that. He’s never been able to do that. That’s a fact. Probably because of the stuff that came out as a result of the Floyd thing. Terrible injustice and sad for him. That probably affected his life, I would think. And I don’t like Greg Lemond, but I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. So you let him go.”
In case you’ve forgotten, that “stuff that came out as a result of that Floyd thing” was Lemond coming forward about being sexually abused as a child. In Lance Armstrong’s world, one man’s confession about a horrific childhood experience was simply ammunition. He was implying that Lemond’s accusations were worthless because he was unstable as a result of childhood trauma. It’s chilling to listen to. A lot of casual fans don’t understand the anger felt towards Armstrong, but this is a good example of where it comes from—and why I agree with Bill. No matter how much Lance comes clean about on Thursday, it’s too much too soon. It will take a lot more than an admission of PEDs to win over his harshest critics.
Alex Heard (@alexheard)
Chris, great job summarizing the major stuff happening with #Doprah right now. Here are a few other talking points we need to have in the mix going forward:
- During a post-interview interview on CBS this morning, Oprah said she personally read all of “the USADA Reasoned Decision” and both David Walsh books—L.A. Confidentiel and Seven Deadly Sins—to prepare for her Lance face-off. (Among much else.) I won’t believe that until I see time-lapse footage of Oprah, reading, alongside the steadily vanishing bottle of bourbon you’d need to plow through all that material, a lot of which is worthy but dull. Somewhere, there are Harpo grunts who did most of the homework and compiled the 112 questions Oprah said she brought to the table. I salute them.
But the real point is that Oprah came in loaded, defying critics who snarked that she would basically play the role of Crying Coach for Lance. On CBS, she referenced being ready and able to cite specific pages from the reasoned decision—which implies an earpiece setup with somebody on the other end, feeding her intel. She mentioned that, after the first hour or so, Lance said something to the effect of: When do we get to the easier part where you ask about my tough childhood and training rides?
- Lance should probably stop saying the interview was “no holds barred.” Judging by Oprah’s comments, it’s obvious that he fenced and parried. That makes sense to me, since he appears to be bargaining with federal prosecutors and USADA in various ways that we don’t fully understand yet. If he “tells all” to her, he doesn’t have anything to sell to his tormentors.
Related: Oprah confused me a bit on CBS when she said Lance “did not come clean in the manner I expected” but was “so forthcoming” that she didn’t have to dig deep into her question bag. That sounded contradictory.
- Driving to work, I heard Colin Cowherd interviewing Frankie Andreu, one of those “When Worlds Collide” moments that this interview is producing. Cowherd is a ball-sports guy, pure and simple. The fact that he had Frankie on—during a five-minute segment in which Frankie said Lance is fundamentally “bad”—shows me that mainstream interest in this story is still as high as it’s ever been.
Oprah, of course, is only the second most-important woman in this story. The first is @mmmaiko, the legendarily tart Twitter specialist who’s been gnawing on Lance’s ankles for years. She’ll be joining us soon, after we hammer out final details about how to identify this mysterious siren, who keeps a secret identity in part to protect herself from Lance trolls. Currently, we’re looking at “gluten-free, Bay Area-based Twitter cycling troll-fetish goddess who contributes infrequently to NYVelocity and the SpeedMetal Cycling podcast.” Is that too clunky?
Bill Gifford (@billgifford)
There’s a famous story about one of Lance’s first big international races, when he was a junior. I think it was in Japan. According to Chris Carmichael, he took off at the starting gun, by himself, thinking he could hold off the field for the entire race. Which he didn’t end up doing, but it was an impressive showing nonetheless. If he’d waited, he probably could have won.
This whole OprahStrong ploy is a bit like that: Too much, too soon. He wants to be forgiven, but people aren’t finished being mad at him yet. They’re still taking off their Livestrong bracelets. It seems to me that he had a window of possible forgiveness back in August, when the USADA decision came down. Instead he fought fire with fire, maintaining his absurd denial in the face of overwhelming evidence. That made things worse for him, and now he needs to go away awhile. Play golf with Tiger Woods, go to a Buddhist monastery, find redemption—and leave the rest of us alone for awhile, so we can forget how much of a jerk he was.
Asking to be allowed to compete in triathlon again—mere months after he was supposedly banned for life—is nothing more than a double-middle-finger salute to the very notion of antidoping in sports. Tyler Hamilton got an 8-year suspension for taking an herbal antidepressant that contained DHEA. Others have been banned for taking supplements that were proven to be contaminated—they had no intention of doping at all. If Lance can’t be banned, then no athlete need fear a positive test ever again.
Americans are forgiving people, eventually. But it takes more time. A smart bike racer learns to be patient, to wait for his moment to attack. This doesn’t seem like it.
Christopher Keyes (@keyeser):
OK, folks, Discovery Communications first annual Lance Armstrong Week has officially kicked off and now that I’ve officially confirmed that I do in fact get the OWN network at home, we’ve got a lot to talk about.
As of this morning, we have confirmation that Armstrong confessed to Oprah in their interview taped yesterday in an Austin hotel. That leaves us wondering not whether he confessed, but how he confessed. According to Oprah, Lance did not come clean in the way she expected, but she wants to leave it to us to decide how contrite he was. This is smart. She’s given away most of the plot, but we still don’t know exactly what the payoff will be.
Did Lance offer a limited confession that simply allows him to satisfy the majority of Americans who haven’t paid close attention over the years but leaves cycling fans and former associates seething? Or will we see a fullthroated apology that addresses the people he’s harmed as a result of his decade-long, scorched-earth denial strategy, including Betsy Andreau, Greg Lemond, and former personal assistant Mike Anderson? And how exactly does one determine the level of contriteness in an apology? And why the straws? I can at least predict this: at least one major news outlets will employ “body language experts” to help us figure these things out.
In the meantime, there’s a lot to discuss between now and game time Thursday night. Here’s a recap of the leaks and revelations reported in the last week alone:
- According to “two people with knowledge of the situation” who “requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly”—translation: two Armstrong associates who were directed by Lance to leak this story and many many others, but to do so anonymously—Armstrong reached out to Floyd Landis to try to reconcile. Floyd rebuffed these efforts.
During a bombshell segment on 60 Minutes Sports which nobody really saw because it aired on Showtime instead of CBS (!?), USADA chief Travis Tygart claimed that in 2004, Armstrong offered to make a donation of around $250,000 to the anti-doping organization. He also told 60 Minutes that a WADA-certified drug tester gave Armstrong and his former team director Johan Bruyneel the information necessary to evade EPO tests.
- Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Armstrong and his lawyers recently met with Tygart at a conference room in Denver to try to work on a deal that might lessen Armstrong’s lifetime ban from competition in exchange for a doping confession. When Tygart was unwilling to budge, the tense meeting went downhill, with Armstrong reportedly telling Tygart: “You don’t hold the keys to my redemption. There’s only one person who holds the keys to my redemption and that’s me.” Shortly afterward, Armstrong surprised everyone by announcing his plans to speak to Oprah. This leaves me to assume that the TV special isn’t part of a larger USADA deal; it’s evidence that Lance is now driving the Car of Redemption with no copilot.
Then again, Armstrong is reportedly now willing to testify against UCI officials involved in either facilitating doping or covering up positive drug tests. That points to the kind of new evidence that USADA would require in exchange for a deal. It is not a great day to be Hein Verbruggen
- One of Lance’s last high-profile supporters, sportswriter Buzz Bissinger, now says his willingness to give Lance the benefit of the doubt makes him “cringe.” (That’s right, Buzz, I just called you a “sportswriter.” That’s what you get for calling Alex Heard Outside’s editor! It’s on!) Anyway, some have called this an overcorrection, perhaps in part because he says he “fucked the duck.” Rick Reilly, another supporter, is now tweeting lame Lance/Oprah jokes, as @alexheard pointed out yesterday.
And then there’s this: The value of Damien Hirst’s paintings sold between 2005 and 2008 have declined in value nearly 30 percent. And a third of his work has failed to sell at auction since 2009. So here’s a new theory to throw into the tornado of speculation: Armstrong has invested in several Hirst works over the years, and his real motivation to confess is the fact that he needs a book deal to make money because he can’t liquidate his art collection. Boom!