January 18, 2013 – Lance Armstrong’s confession on the Oprah Winfrey show saw Armstrong finally confess to being a doper, a liar, and cheat and a bully. He also admitted to being ruthless, ready to win at all costs and trying to control every outcome.
Mainstream media described the interview as “Armstrong coming clean” but the confession was disappointing for many viewers and industry players in that Armstrong did not name names, did not reveal where he received the money from to run such an expensive doping program, and did not reveal who helped him to carry it all off. In short, it was a carefully-crafted confession designed to try and salvage a former sport idol’s reputation – more remarkable for what was not revealed.
Armstrong admitted to doping from “the mid 1990s” until 2005, but denies doping at the 2009 Tour de France, where he finished third, or at his final Tour in 2010. He also denies putting undue pressure on former teammates to get with his team doping programs. There were times when Armstrong seemed to truly be sorry for what he did, but other times he smirked, suggesting pride at having pulled off “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” Armstrong suggested, however, that his doping program was overshadowed by the one run in the former East Germany.
Reactions to the first part of Armstrong’s confession continue but most pundits are not too impressed.
“He has to name names … he is probably the biggest cheat sport has ever known,” well-known Armstrong critic and Sunday Times sports writer David Walsh told BBC.
“If he was looking for redemption, he didn’t succeed in getting that,” John Fahey, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) told AP. Fahey further told Britain’s Telegraph that Armstrong is still lying, at least about “coming clean” for his 2009 and 2010 TdF participations.
There might be legal reasons why Armstrong cannot be forthcoming about this period suggested Fahey. Presumably this is a reference to the seven-year statute of limitations under U.S. law. Oprah Winfrey indicated that Armstrong had a team of lawyers with him for the interview who presumably gave the former cyclist a lot of coaching about what, or what not, to say.
“Where did he get the drugs from?” Sports journalist Phil Liggett asked the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Because it’s very, very expensive to buy EPO. Who gave him the knowhow, the wherewithal to do it?”
Cycling Australia’s president Klaus Mueller termed the confession “amazingly disingenuous” and said that Armstrong admitted to no more than he had to.
“He is an impressive communicator trying to salvage what’s left of his reputation,” Christianne Ayotte told CBC. Ayotte is the director of the WADA-certified INRS anti-doping lab in Montreal.
“Lance Armstrong’s decision finally to confront his past is an important step forward on the long road to repairing the damage that has been caused to cycling and to restoring confidence in the sport,” said the UCI in a release. “Lance Armstrong has confirmed there was no collusion or conspiracy between the UCI and Lance Armstrong.” A few pundits might question some of the UCI assertions, however.
An indication that Armstrong still has considerable star power came from how Oprah’s network chose to air part one of the interview in the same time slot as the return of “American Idol,” meaning that Armstrong and Oprah went head-to-head against the most-watched TV show in the USA.
The show was billed as a “no holds barred” interview but so far Oprah seems to have been punching with kid gloves and has let Armstrong control yet another outcome. Pedal will continue to report on this unfolding story…