In the dizzying run-in to Armstrong’s appearance on Oprah, speculation centered on whether he would tell the truth of his career at last. In the opening minutes, Armstrong shot off a series of yes answers.
Yes, I used doping to win the Tour de France. Yes, I used cortisone. Yes, I started doping sometime in the ’90s.
But that was where the truth ended. Despite those brief moments of truthfulness, the Oprah interview unfolded in typically manipulative Armstrong style. The Big Lie came around halfway through the interview, and with it came the rationale for Armstrong’s willingness to sit down with Oprah in the first place.
What was the big lie? Armstrong claimed that he stopped using in 2005. So while he said kissed those seven Tour victories goodbye, he made a desperate, hail mary play for a reduced sanction. The comeback years, the 2009 and 2010 Tour, he rode clean, claimed Armstrong.
Conveniently, 2005 was outside the eight-year statue of limitations. Even a back-dated sanction would free Armstrong to compete pretty much tomorrow.
There’s never been any doubt about Armstrong’s audacity or his hubris. He seems to think that he can still control the narrative, that we will still after all this time, believe his word.
Right man, you were totally clean in 2009. That’s why your biopassport numbers showed constant, rather than declining, numbers during the Tour. That’s why… Well, never mind.
The interview quickly veered into bizarro land, a land where Armstrong’s view of events still holds sway even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Contrary to the voluminous evidence of the USADA report, Armstrong never encouraged or pressured his teammates to dope. Nor, it seems did he pay off the UCI to bury the positive test at the Tour de Suisse. I donated to the UCI, because they asked me to.
I was a bully! But hey, it wasn’t that bad! Everyone has flaws! Also, it’s good to win. Wanting to win too much, that was my flaw!
In the oddest and most distasteful moment, Armstrong admitted that he called Betsy Andreu a bitch, but well, he didn’t call her fat. Because that totally makes it okay, Lance. As long as you didn’t call her fat. Totally.
Oprah did a good job pushing Armstrong. You think of Oprah as a touchy feely, come to my couch, read along with my book club figure. But in this case, she showed the steely backbone that helped her create her media empire. Oprah’s no wuss, that’s for sure.
You expect sometimes that over time, people will change and grow. But based on this interview, it seems clear that little has changed for Armstrong. He’ll admit to flaws if it will gain him sympathy. He’ll try to play the redemption card if it will restore his fame and fortune. He’ll lie to return to competition, if he can get away with it.
When it comes to Armstrong, it’s the same as it ever was. And all the crocodile tears and all the talking about flaws and apologies on Oprah won’t change that.