This was a big week for famous people telling us things we already knew. First actress Jodie Foster came out in a rambling, indirect speech at the Golden Globes, and tonight I watched former 7-time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong admit to doping.
The evidence has been out there for a while and despite many public denials, Lance finally came clean in an exclusive interview with Oprah on her OWN network.
The stories I’ve read about the systematic bullying, threats, and intimidation he used against his inner circle when they betrayed him, make him sound like a monster.
Some view his fall from grace as especially shameful because he’s also a testicular cancer survivor who formed the Livestrong foundation that has raised millions of dollars for research, and inspired many touched by cancer.
In a great article previewing the interview, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo sports wrote:
“Armstrong isn’t necessarily a bad guy for doping. He is a bad guy for the way he used his immense power, fame and fortune to attempt to ruin anyone who dared to speak the truth to his avalanche of lies.“
He goes on to list all the questions he would ask if he ever got a shot at Armstrong. Oprah addressed many of them in the interview.
Armstrong admitted right off the top that he used performance enhancing drugs, and said he was doing the interview to acknowledge his mistakes and apologize. He seemed tense and shifty, often clenching his teeth and avoiding looking Oprah in the eye as he answered the toughest questions. He probably would rather have been almost anywhere but that chair. But he did talk for two and a half hours. Here are some of the highlights that stood out:
–Why now: “I don’t have a good answer. This is too late. It was one big lie I repeated a lot of times.”
–Why he kept up the charade for so long : “This story was so perfect for so long. A mythic perfect story. I lost myself in all that. I couldn’t handle it, I had always controlled every outcome of my life.”
–On his rough tactics against teammates and others who came clean: “I was a bully. I tried to control the narrative by calling them liars.”
–Why he thinks he bullied people: “My mother had me very young and we always had our back against the wall… so we were fighters, my entire life. I took that ruthless, relentless attitude into cycling. Surviving cancer changed me… and that instinct morphed into the bullying.”
–On a video of him denying drug use to anti-doping officials: “I think, look at that arrogant prick. It’s not good.”
–Oprah: “Did you feel the doping was wrong at the time?” Lance: ”No. ” Oprah: “Did you feel bad about it?” Lance: “No, scary, right?” Oprah: “You didn’t think you were cheating at the time?” Lance: “No, even scarier.”
–On the day his doping case was reopened: ” I’d do anything to go back to that day. I wouldn’t fight it. I wouldn’t sue them. I’d listen….I wish I could have told the truth then.”
–On how he expects people to react: “I see the anger in people who supported and believed in me. They have every right to feel betrayed. I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust.”
–On suing Irish cycling masseuse Emma O’Reilly and others who outed his doping: “That was a major flaw. It was a guy who expected to get whatever he wanted and control every outcome. Some people won’t forgive me. I understand that.”
Critics said Armstrong chose Oprah because she would go easy on him. But anyone who knows her interview style knows she’s anything but soft. She came prepared, armed with facts, quotes and video that wasn’t just handed to her by producers. She brang it. She was composed and clear. There were many questions she planned to ask but she wasn’t afraid to react to his answers and delve deeper. She has a way of getting people to “speak their truths,” as she would say. There’s still another hour to air tomorrow, but so far, I’d give her an A.
It was compelling TV.
Oprah went on “CBS This Morning” this week and had some interesting things to say about the interview. You can see that here.
My thoughts? Armstrong was a bad, selfish guy who lied. Now he’s still a bad guy who happens to be telling the truth, for reasons still unclear. I didn’t believe he was sincere and am not sure if he’s sorry he did it or sorry he got caught.
Did you watch it? OWN is repeating the interview Friday and throughout the weekend if you want to catch it. What did you think? Tell me in the comments.