January 19, 2013 – Friday evening’s second installment of the Armstrong confession on Oprah seemed to solicit much less reaction than the first broadcast did on Thursday evening. Presumably this is because the first installment set the tone, letting viewers know what was in store. The comments below are thus a mix of reactions to both Thursday’s and Friday’s segment.
The crux of the two interviews happened early in Thursday’s segment where Armstrong finally confessed to doping and revealed his “cocktail” to be a mix of EPO (erythropoietin), blood transfusions and testosterone. Friday’s segment heard him describe the devastating effect that the allegations and sanctions are having on his family, his reputation, and on his future earning power. “My mom is a wreck,” explained Armstrong before talking bleary-eyed about how his 13-year-old son, Luke, was defending him, claiming that dad didn’t dope. “That’s when I knew I had to tell him…”
While Armstrong seemed to struggle much more with his emotions in Friday’s interview, his tears were suspect. Apparently each time he became bleary-eyed was preceded by Armstrong looking up at the overhead lights. Some blogs on the subject of acting suggest that doing exactly that can conjure up fake tears. Armstrong also seemed to have little difficulty speaking in a regular voice during most of these emotional passages, making some viewers suspicious of the sincerity of his tears.
Then there was a recounting of promises to his then-wife Kristin, to race clean during his comeback in 2008. Anti-doping authorities such as USADA and WADA are openly skeptical of that claim, pointing to blood samples from the cyclist during that period and which are consistent with blood doping. And while Armstrong spoke repeatedly during the interview about Kristin, whom he divorced in 2003, there was little discussion about his current girlfriend, Anna Hansen, who is the mother to two of his five children.
Armstrong also spoke about his lifetime ban from sanctioned races, likening it to “a death sentence” for someone like him who lives to compete. “I deserve to be punished. I’m not sure that I deserve a death penalty.”
According to Armstrong the hardest thing for him to take was when Livestrong, the foundation that he started to fight cancer, asked him to first step down as chairman in October and then to completely sever all ties with the organization in November. He also confirmed he has been undergoing therapy to confront his demons.
There has been much analysis of Armstrong’s confession, including a fascinating one by Gillian Glass, a body language reading expert, suggesting that he is “a pathological liar” and “a very disturbed individual who is very TOXIC!” Nonetheless Armstrong has certainly said some things that are true. And while viewers only heard a confession that told little of the real story, Armstrong was surprisingly articulate during the 180 minutes that he was on the air over two evenings and did not appear like someone whose world has completely imploded over the past six months.
Overall, like many, this reporter often doubted what Armstrong was saying, but the concensus was that most came away from the second interview feeling more empathy for the dethroned former hero. At times it really sounded as if Armstrong was admitting his mistakes and starting on the long road to recovery.
Because Armstrong has for so long embodied the sport, it seemed that cycling itself was also on trial. One online comment contends that “all cyclists are liars.” While it is unfair to paint everyone in the sport with the same brush, the comment speaks to the level and strength of the disallusionment with the sport.
As Armstrong claimed, he did not invent doping and nor was he was alone in doping to win. He certainly had help to make his doping ring work, and he was not the only one to lie about doping. Armstrong’s removal from cycling has done little, if anything, to clean up the sport. While the motivations for doping seem to still be intact at least the non-doping side is finally taking steps to combat dopers.
One hopes that the cycling community isn’t looking to turn Armstrong into a proverbial scapegoat in a futile effort to absolve everyone else of sin. The paltry 6-month sanction received by those who testified against him has raised more than one eyebrow, and while Armstrong has presumably started to confront his own demons, cycling has a long road ahead to rid itself of its troubled past.
While Oprah’s parting moral to the story “the truth can set you free” has a cliche ring to it, it’s a message that resonates the world over and not just in cycling, or in sport.
Gillian Glass analysis HERE.