Before Lance Armstrong spoke with Oprah Winfrey I thought he was a liar, a cheat and a bully. After watching the interview/show I haven’t changed my opinion one bit.
We will look at some of the points raised in the interview and we will look at what wasn’t mentioned. The over riding feeling you got from the interview was his sense of self and reality being divorced from anything we know to be true or real.
In short, he is not well.
I agree with Paul Kimmage, sports journalist and long time critic of Armstrong, that Oprah started superbly. She instructed and informed Lance how the interview would go down. She wanted yes/no answers and she got them.
Obviously this approach was meant to shock as Lance admitted to being a cheat. But then Oprah stopped this approach and asked a more open ended question. Lance asked, “Are we done with the yes/no?” We were.
You could nearly see him say to himself, “Thank Christ, now I can waffle, schmooze and dictate.” From there on we saw the same old Lance and the same old Oprah.
Oprah-style is too soft and easy going for a proper investigative interview. We knew he was a cheat but we didn’t give a damn what or how it made him feel. We wanted more facts and details but we didn’t get them.
Lance continued to dictate what he felt like discussing. It was too general and evasive. No probing into early positives in 1999 and who/how he got off. No probing into ‘shady dealings’ in UCI (Unoin Cycliste International).
There was too much ‘what were you thinking?’ and ‘have you made friends with Betty Andreu? (one of the wives of his teammates who witnessed Lance tell doctors of his doping)’. Betty Andreu incidentally is furious about the interview and Lances continuing denial of the hospital admission of drug taking.
But what did I expect? OWN, Oprah Winfrey Network, is not doing well. On her old show on ABC she pulled 12 million daily. Her interview with Whitney Houston’s daughter last year only drew 3.5 million.
She hoped this would improve ratings. She was never going to stand up and harass her star guest. She doesnt work that way. When he didn’t want to talk about Michele Ferrari (the doctor who is accused of engaging in blood doping with Lance) she moved on because that’s how her shows operate: keep the discussion light and flowing.
She missed a chance. A proper unstaged interrogation a la Jeremy Paxman was what the ratings craved. At the end of part one when it foretold, as all trailers do, exactly what was in part two, I despaired and I admit tuned out soon enough. Part two was all about poor Lance. If the trailer showed a proper confrontation and a walk off, ratings boom.
It must be a cultural thing as American ‘exposes’ focus a lot on the Christian-like redemption as opposed to full disclosure of facts. The ‘process’ of forgiveness is a big thing.
I ultimately don’t believe him. The falseness of his responses were plain to see. It all seemed very contrived and scripted on his part.
Asked if he felt bad and if he felt like a cheat he answered “no” and then made comments such as ‘scarier’ and ‘scariest’.
It seemed like it was prearranged in his head. Now excuse me but apart from being nauseatingly pompous but I don’t find him not feeling bad, scary or surprising. Also, who comments on their own answers?
By the way, it might be a personal thing and lacking in any factual basis but I dislike people referring to themselves in the third person. I am not a psychologist or a linguist but there is something detached about it.
Also, the supposed folksy respect for others that characterises how some Americans communicate belies an arrogance and contempt underneath.
The use of the word humbling to describe some of his experiences was creepy as only ego maniacs talk in such terms. Why did he have to be asked to step down from the charity? If you are disgraced you distance yourself from anything you could harm from your continued involvement.
The main reasons why I don’t believe him are:
It’s obvious he only conducted the interview because he is already caught. The interview taught us nothing. There were no revelations and therefore the purpose was self-serving.
And most importantly there has been no talk by Lance of returning money he defrauded people out of, people such as promotion company DSM, who refused to pay a bonus for winning the 2005 Tour de France because of suspected drug taking. Lance sued them for $7 million. If he were truly sorry he should be talking about returning money to these people.
No one is interested in two-hour shows from Lance seeking forgiveness. No sir, just return all that money. Why put everyone through lengthy court actions? I hold my breath.
Where to now? In April the independant hearing will commence investigating the UCI involvement in covering up doping and taking bribes from Lance. There may be more answers.
Doctor Ferrari will soon be in court for his illegal business of providing performance enhancing drugs to athletes.
Will cycling and sport clean itself up? The interest in Lance’s story isn’t about sport as such. It is about justice. It’s about the fact that there is one rule for the poor and one for the rich.
He is guilty of illegal drug trafficking, witness tampering and fraud. Will he go to jail? Will there be justice?