Feature: Armstrong/Oprah Interview Day II - I had to tell the truth for my children
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Feature: Armstrong/Oprah Interview Day II - I had to tell the truth for my children

by Shane Stokes at 9:34 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Doping
 
Transcript of part two; former pro on losing LiveStrong and $75 million, returning to racing and more

Lance Armstrong Oprah WinfreySpeaking to Oprah Winfrey last night as part of his admission of long term doping, an at-times emotional Lance Armstrong identified four main issues as being the most difficult to handle in recent months. The Texan’s thoughts were broadcast in the second half of his interview with Winfrey, and there he said that issues relating to his family, to LiveStrong, to lack of income and the inability to compete had all hit him very hard.

Showing more strain at times than in Thursday’s screening of part I, the clearest discomfort was seen when Armstrong recounted having to tell his children that he had in fact, after years of denials to them and others, used doping products while he was racing.

Asked by Winfrey what he tells his son Luke, he said that he had already spoken to him about it. He said that the thirteen year old had always believed he was clean, but that he realised it was time to be frank with his son when he saw him stand up for Armstrong’s reputation against others who said his father had doped.

“When this all really started, [was when] I saw my son defending me, and saying ‘that’s not true. What you are saying about my dad is not true.’,” Armstrong said.

“That almost goes to this question of why [admit it] now? Well, that is when I knew I had to tell him. And he had never asked me. He had never said ‘dad, is this true?’ He trusted me.”

“What did you say to him?” asked Winfrey. “At that time I didn’t say anything,” he answered. “But that was the time that I knew I had to say something. He was defending me to other kids, kids online. On that point I decided I had to say something. This was out of control. Then I had to have that talk with him, which was over the holidays.

“I said ‘listen, there have been a lot of questions about your dad. About my career, whether I doped or did not dope. I have always denied that and I have always been ruthless and defiant about that. You guys have seen it, it is probably why you trusted me on that…

“But I said, ‘I want you to know it is true.’”

A shaken-looking Armstrong told Winfrey he expected a backlash from his son, but none came. “He just said, ‘look, I love you, you are my dad. This won’t change that.’”

In cataloguing what he said were the toughest moments, he also talked about the difficulty of losing his positions with LiveStrong, the cancer foundation he set up after his return from the illness. He said that as it became increasingly obvious that he would be unable to prevail against the knock to his image and the accusations of doping post-USADA Reasoned Decision, that he came to accept that many of his sponsors would walk away.

“The one I didn’t think would leave would be the foundation,” he said. “That was the most humbling moment, to get that call. There were two parts. One, step down as chairman, but stay on the board, stay involved. That wasn’t enough for the people, for our supporters. Then a couple of weeks later the next call came. ‘We need you to step aside.’

“It wasn’t ‘we need you to step down,’ it was ‘we need you to step down for yourself.’ I thought about this a lot. None of my kids said ‘you are out,’ none of my friends said ‘you are out.’ The foundation is like my sixth child. So to have to step aside from that was big. I wouldn’t say I was forced out, but there was pressure.”

While he insisted that having sponsors end their association with him wasn’t as painful, he said that their departure over one or two days nevertheless had serious financial implications. Armstrong estimated that he lost what would have been $75 million when those sponsors walked, and admitted he might never recoup that.

All Armstrong’s life, his ability to make money – his net worth has been estimated before as being over $100 million, although legal fees will have reduced that – has been based mainly around his competitive results and his status as a top sportsman.

He likely sees any return to competition in that light, knowing that he could still make a lot of money in triathlon or running if and when sponsors are found and come on board, but said the prime motivation would be to be able to wear a race number again.

“If you are asking me if I want to compete again, the answer is hell, yes,” he said, seizing the subject, his desire being clear in his speaking more quickly than perhaps at any other point in the interview. “I am a competitor. I love to race. But I don’t expect it to happen. It's what I've done my whole life. I love to train. I love to race. I love to toe the line.”

Asked by Winfrey if he wanted to return to the peloton, he said that he didn’t think about riding another Tour de France. “But if there was ever a window, would I like to run the Chicago Marathon when I'm 50? I would love to do that. But right now I can’t run the Austin 10k. I can’t do anything that is sanctioned.”

Armstrong was handed a lifetime ban last year after he refused to fight the charges of doping and other offences before an arbitration board. He had originally been offered a reduced sanction by USADA if he agreed to admit what he had done and to cooperate with the investigation, but went on the attack through his legal and PR representatives instead.

Now, months later and painted into a corner, he is reportedly considering providing information to anti-doping agencies in a bid to have his sentence reduced.

Giving his thoughts on that subject, it’s clear Armstrong feels hard done by. “This may not be the most popular answer, but I think I deserve it [being able to return to sport in the future]. Maybe not right now…but if you look at this situation, if you look at the culture, if you look at the sport…that is why I told you if I could go back to that time [with USADA]…

“You are trading my story for a six month suspension…that is what people got,” he said. “That is what everybody got. So I got a death penalty, they got six months. I am not saying it is unfair, necessarily, but it is different.

“I deserve to be punished. I am not sure I deserve a death penalty.”

However USADA and WADA have made it clear that no reduction in his sanction will be considered unless he gives full and truthful evidence under oath, and helps to shine the light on others. Thus far, on the basis of what was said to Winfrey, there is little indication of that happening. While Armstrong has admitted for the first time that he used banned substances for much of his career, he denies dipping into the medicine cabinet after he returned to the sport in 2005.

This is at clear variance with the USADA Reasoned Decision, which pointed out he had made very considerable transfers of money to Michele Ferrari since then, and also that blood passport experts had concluded that his biological profile was highly suspicious.

Still, he’s sticking by his story that the last time he doped was in 2005. In the programme, and in the detailed transcript below, he says that he sought a green light from his ex-wife Kristin – who is the mother of three of his children – prior to making a return, and that she insisted he rode clean.

“She was the one person I asked if I could do that, if I could come back. If I was going to do this, it was a big decision and I needed her blessing,” Armstrong said. “She said to me ‘you can do it, under one condition. That you never cross that line again…”

“Of drugs,” Winfrey clarified.

“I said, yes, you got a deal. I never would have betrayed that with her. It was a serious ask, it was a serious commitment. She gave me her blessing. If she had said no, I do not like this idea, I would not have done it. But I gave her my word and I did stuck to it.”

Many would disagree with him on that, and this discrepancy between his version and USADA’s evidence is something which could be a very big stumbling block if they do ever sit down to hammer out a possible reduced sanction.

In the interview details below, Armstrong also talks about many other subjects, including his need to apologise to key people such as Frankie and Betsy Andreu and three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, the disclosure that he is doing therapy and that he needs to continue doing so in order to become a more balanced, less bullying person. He also speaks of the toll this scandal has taken on his mother, and of his mistake in tweeting a provocative photo of seven yellow jerseys.

However it’s not all acceptance and contrition; he denies USADA CEO Travis Tygart’s assertion last week that he or his representatives had tried to bribe the agency.

The interview, minute by minute:

After showing clips from the first half of the interview, as was screened on Thursday evening, the Oprah Winfrey/Lance Armstrong confessional box programme continued with an exploration of other topics. Winfrey began by noting that every article she had seen mentioned the world ‘disgraced.’ She wanted to know if he felt that way.

“Of course. But I also feel humbled. I feel ashamed. Yeah, this is ugly stuff,” he responded.

Winfrey: “What was the humbling moment that brought you face to face with yourself? Was it when Nike walked away?”

“I believe that was a Wednesday. But that wasn’t the most humbling moment – I’ll get to that. But on that Wednesday, Nike called. They said basically - that they are out. Then the calls started coming – Trek, Giro, Anheuser-Busch. The same couple of days. Everybody out. It was still not the most humbling moment, but not a fun period.”

Winfrey: “How did that hit you?”

“In a way, I’d assumed we’d get to that point. I had it in my mind that they’d all leave. But the one I didn’t think would leave would be the foundation.”

In a voiceover segment, Winfrey then talks about his recovery, the foundation, the wristbands and the money that was raised by it all. She talks about his long history with it, then him having to stand down from it last autumn.

Livestrong“That was the most humbling moment,” Armstrong continued, “to get that call. There were two parts. One, step down as chairman, but stay on the board, stay involved. That wasn’t enough for the people, for our supporters. Then a couple of weeks later the next call came. ‘We need you to step aside.’

“It wasn’t ‘we need you to step down,’ it was ‘we need you to step down for yourself.’

“I thought about this a lot. None of my kids said ‘you are out,’ none of my friends said ‘you are out.’ The foundation is like my sixth child. So to have to step aside from that was big.

“I wouldn’t say I was forced out, but there was pressure. I had conversation with Doug [Ulman] and the board members. It was the hardest thing for the foundation, but it was the best thing for it. But that was the lowest thing.”

“Can LiveStrong live without your story?” she asked him then. “I would hope so. I hope so,” he answered.

Winfrey then states that she got a message from a friend of hers whose son had been diagnosed with leukaemia. That message said that the woman had heard that he was ‘a jerk,’ but that she had got inspiration from Lance as regards cancer.

The women told Winfrey that her ‘prayer to Lance is that as he faces his demons he remembers it's not about the bike.’

“Are you facing your demons?” Winfrey asked.

“Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. It is a process. And I think we are at the beginning of the process.”

Winfrey: “Do you think that banned substances contributed to you getting cancer?”

“I don’t think so. I am not a doctor, I have never had a doctor say that to me personally. I don’t think so.

Winfrey shows him a clip from the SCA trial, where he said that he never doped and that he knows that if he did so and was caught, that the sponsors would all go away, and so too all the cancer survivors. ‘It is also about the faith in me that people have put in me over the years’ he states in that 2005 video.

Winfrey: “Here we are in that moment….”

“Yep.”

Winfrey: “It feels like self prophecy, almost.”

“It is sick. I don’t like that guy [in the video].”

Winfrey: “Who is that guy?”

Lance Armstrong“That is a guy who felt invincible, was told he was invincible, truly believed he was invincible.. That is who that guy was. That guy is still there. I am not going to lie to you, to the public, say ‘I am in therapy, I feel better.’ He is still there. But does he need to exit through this process? Yes. Am I committed to that process? Yes.”

That led on to the topic of making amends to others, to those he had bullied and sued and defamed. Armstrong said that he accepted that he had done wrong to them and that he needed to put things right.

“We talked about apologies and I told you that I owe a lot of people apologies. The obvious ones, the ones we know by name - the Frankies, the Betsies, the Greg LeMonds, the Tylers Hamiltons, the Floyd Landises, the Emma O’Reilly. I owe them apologies, and whenever they are ready I will give them,” he said.

Winfrey: “Do you owe David Walsh an apology? Do you owe David Walsh an apology, who for thirteen years has pursued this story, who wrote for the Times, who has now written books about you and this entire processes?”

“That’s a good question. I would apologise to David.”

Winfrey: “What do you say to the woman who wrote that email and the millions of people who wore the bracelets and believed?”

“I would say I understand your anger, your sense of betrayal. You supported me forever through all of this and I lied to you. I am sorry, and I will spend…I am committed to spending as long as I have to make amends, knowing that I won’t get very many of you back.”

The desire to reduce a lifetime ban:

As was first reported by the New York Times journalist Juliet Macur earlier this month, one of Armstrong’s major motivations at this point in time is to be able to return to competition. He has been taking on others in sport since a very young age and admitted that he is at a loss without being able to do that.

“If you are asking me if I want to compete again, the answer is hell yes. I am a competitor. I love to race. But I don’t expect it to happen,” he said. “It's what I've done my whole life. I love to train. I love to race. I love to toe the line.”

Winfrey: “You want to compete again on the bicycle?”

“Not in the Tour de France, but there's a lot of other things I could do but can’t do because of this punishment. I made my bed. But if there was ever a window, would I like to run the Chicago Marathon when I'm 50? I would love to do that. But right now I can’t run the Austin 10k. I can’t do anything that is sanctioned.

“This may not be the most popular answer, but I think I deserve it. Maybe not right now…but if you look at this situation, if you look at the culture, if you look at the sport…that is why I told you if I could go back to that time [with USADA, that he’d cooperate]. You are trading my story for a six month suspension…that is what people got.

Winfrey: “That is what other people got…”

“That is what everybody got. So I got a death penalty, they got six months. I am not saying it is unfair, necessarily, but it is different.”

Winfrey: “Do you think you have got what you deserved? For a long time you were saying everybody was on the witch hunt for you… Do you think in this moment, considering how big you were, what that meant, how much people believed, what your name and brand stood for…”

“I deserve to be punished. I am not sure I deserve a death penalty.”

There are two differences though between Armstrong and the other riders, though; firstly, he was a part owner of the US Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams and had very considerable influence over the way things were run. That makes him a decision maker rather than a decision follower.

Secondly, the USADA report states that he gave other banned substances, encouraged his team-mates to dope and threatened some who wouldn’t do so with sacking.

He denied the latter in part one of the interview but even if you take him at his word – and few would at this point – the chance to plead his case was when USADA were investigating him and offered him the chance to become a witness, not months later when he has fought the agency in the courts, in the press and in the court of public opinion, and when he has been defeated.

USADA and WADA have made clear that he would consider reducing his lifetime ban, but that he would have to give very considerable evidence and to tell the full truth. Insisting that he raced clean in 2009 and 2010 will be disputed by them, and his factually incorrect statement that he never met Lausanne anti-doping agency lab chief Martial Saugy also jars.

Shooting self in foot with defiance, and accepting the need to make serious changes:

The interview moved on to the decision by Armstrong to release a tweet last autumn showing himself at home with seven yellow jerseys, a pictorial middle finger raised to USADA, to his critics and to those who believed he had broken the rules and needed to show contrition.

Armstrong experienced a backlash to that decision, although as ever some supported him and said he was right. Now, months later, he concedes it was a counter-productive move.

“So, was it just you being your cocky, arrogant jerk self that did that tweet with all the jerseys?” Winfrey asked. “Yeah. That was another mistake,” he answered.

Winfrey: “You are…the wolves are at the door. They are in your house and you tweet out that picture. What were you doing that for? What was that?

“That was just more defiance. What is scary is I actually thought it was a good idea at the time.”

As he did at other moments in the interview, Armstrong spoke about himself as two people, separating out the person who made bad decisions in the past and the person who recognises that now and claims to want to leave that first half behind. Asked by Winfrey if the upheaval he has faced has made big changes to him, he accepts that he has a lot of work to do.

“This is heavy and this is messy and this is not something I can sit with you and leave and go, ‘okay, we are all good.’

Winfrey: “You mentioned therapy a minute ago. Are you doing therapy?”

“Yes. Over my life I have done it sporadically. And I am the type of person who needs to not to do it sporadically. It needs to be consistently. I have had a messy life. It is no excuse, but this is going to be a long process.”

Winfrey: “So do you have remorse? Is there real remorse, or is there a sense of ‘I’m sorry I got caught and I’m sorry I have to go through all of this’?”

“Everyone who is caught is bummed out they get caught. I am only starting and I will continue. When this comes out…the ripple effects… There are people who are still sitting there as true believers…now they are going to hear something completely different.

“Do I have remorse? Absolutely? Will it continue to grow? Absolutely,” he continued. “For me, this is just the first step. Again, these are my actions. I paid the price, but I deserve it.”

Winfrey asks again if a clear change has happened in him yet.

“I would be lying if I said that it has. Again, I keep going to this word, this idea of ‘process.’ I have got work to do. I can’t…there is not going to be one tectonic shift that says ‘it’s okay, he is on his way, it is good.’”

The people who knew, and the claim he raced clean from 2009:

Lance ArmstrongIt is impossible to take banned substances for over fifteen years [or for longer, if you believe those who said he used testosterone from a young age –ed] without anyone knowing about it. Banned substances have to be transported and supplied, assistance may be needed in their administration and in evading detection, and there is also a crossing point between the personal and the professional, between the home environment and the storage and use of doping products.

The USADA Reasoned Decision made clear that team-mates were handed banned substances in front of Armstrong’s ex-wife Kristin, and also said that she gave some of those on the American team cortisone tablets at the 1998 world road race championships.

Winfrey: “Were there people who cared about you who knew about this and who wanted you to stop this? To stop the lying, stop the doping. Was there anything they would have said or done?”

“Probably not,” he said, just before a voiceover takes the reader through images of Kristin Armstrong and his new girlfried Anna Hansen, plus their children.

“If I could say one name, it would be Kristen. She is a smart lady, she is extremely spiritual. She believes in honestly, integrity and the truth. She believe that the truth will set you free,” he continued.

“We believe differently on a lot of things. She may come at it from a religion standpoint, where I may not. It doesn’t matter. We have three kids together. They deserve the honest truth. They deserve a dad that is viewed as telling the truth to them, to the public. Anna has always wanted that. She doesn’t know the whole story back then because we weren’t together.”

Winfrey: “Was there anybody who knew the whole truth? Have you told anybody the whole truth?

Armstrong laughed, perhaps a little nervously. “Yeah, yeah,” he said, but then didn’t go further.

In what some said afterwards was a mistake on her part, Winfrey quickly moved on rather than pressing the point and trying to elicit names from him. One who many feel must have known was former US Postal Service team manager Johan Bruyneel, but he wasn’t mentioned, and neither were Armstrong’s lawyer, his longtime associates, nor the doctor Michele Ferrari.

“Let’s go back to Kristin,” said Winfrey, that opportunity missed. “She was aware what is going on. Had she had conversations with you about stopping, getting out?”

“I asked Kristin,” responded Armstrong. “I saw her at the kids game two days ago and said if this comes up, can I talk about this? She said yes.

“She wasn't that curious. Perhaps she didn't want to know. She certainly knew, but it was a need to know basis. I guess maybe I protected her a little bit from that.

“The thing about her, my doping and this comeback…she was the one person I asked if I could do that….if I could come back. If I was going to do this, it was a big decision and I needed her blessing. She said to me ‘you can do it, under one condition. That you never cross that line again…

Winfrey: “The line of drugs…”

“I said, yes, you got a deal. I never would have betrayed that with her. It was a serious ask, it was a serious commitment. She gave me her blessing. If she had said no, I do not like this idea, I would not have done it. But I gave her my word and I did stuck to it.”

Winfrey: “You said at the beginning of our conversation here that you didn’t believe it was possible to win seven in a row without doping. But you came back, not going to dope, not going to do blood transfusions, but you expected to win, still?”

“Yes. Because I thought and I still think that the sport was very clean. There really was a major shift in the mid 2000s with the bio passport.”

Winfrey: “So you thought you were coming into a clean sport and a level playing field. How was it for you to come in third, you who wins at all costs?”

“I didn’t expect to get third. I expected to win, like I always expected. At the end I said to myself ‘I just got beat by two guys who were better.’ That is why we have the event. I know that doesn’t sound like something I would say, but I did everything I could in training and I just got beat.”

Telling his children that he’d not been straight with them:

The moment of the interview where Armstrong appeared most emotional was when he spoke about his family. Many who had been cynical of his reasons for doing the Oprah Winfrey interview had said that he would seek sympathy at some point in order to get the general public back on side; indeed, several previous Winfrey interviews have featured celebrities turning on the waterworks. And while tears didn’t arrive, he seemed close to it.

It was undoubtedly a difficult thing to have to do, but debates will go back and forth about whether bringing up such an emotional topic was a planned decision on his part. Either way, he went into that history at length, painting an indisputably sad picture of children defending the indefensible without knowing what they had been doing.

Winfrey: “You were talking about Kristin, you have three children together. What do you tell Luke? He is thirteen, you have been fighting this thing his entire life.”

“Well, trust me, they know a lot,” he answered. “They hear it in the hallways. In their schools, their classmates have been very supportive. Where you lose control with your kids is when they go out of that space – instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Then the feedback comes.

Winfrey: “So what did you tell them?”

“First I want to tell you what happened. When this all really started, I saw my son defending me, and saying ‘that’s not true. What you are saying about my dad is not true.’ It almost goes to this question of, why now?

“He can’t [Armstrong pauses for a long time, was welling up]. That is when I knew I had to tell him.

“And he had never asked me. He had never said ‘dad, is this true?’ He trusted me. I heard about it in the hallways. [Armstrong pauses again, sighs, looks down, appears very uncomfortable.]

Winfrey: “What did you say to him?”

“At that time I didn’t say anything. But that was the time that I knew I had to say something. He was defending me to other kids, kids online. On that point I decided I had to say something. This was out of control. Then I had to have that talk with him, which was over the holidays.

“I said ‘listen, there have been a lot of questions about your dad. About my career, whether I doped or did not dope. I have always denied that and I have always been ruthless and defiant about that. You guys have seen it, it is probably why you trusted me on that…

“I said, ‘I want you to know it is true.’ Then there were the girls who are eleven, the twins, and Luke. They didn’t say much. They didn’t say ‘but wait, dad’ – they just accepted it. I told Luke…I said - ‘Luke. [Very long pause] I said don’t defend me any more. [Another long pause]. Don’t.’”

“How did he take it?” Winfrey asked.

“He has been remarkably calm and mature about this. I said if anybody says anything to you, if some kids say something, do not defend me. Just say ‘hey, my dad says he is sorry.’”

Winfrey: “Did he say anything?”

“He just said look, I love you, you are my dad. This won’t change that. I had expected…I guess you always expect something.”

Winfrey: “Did you expect defiance? Anger? Disappointment?”

“Thank God he is more like Kristin than he is like me.”

Moving on into the future…

Armstrong appeared most contrite when talking about the effect that his doping, his bullying and his lying had on his family. In contrast, when he spoke about the sport, he was clear that he regarded using EPO and other substances ‘like air in the tyres, like water in the bottle.’ Doping was a means to an end, a way to be competitive and to chase the top results.

Harm was undoubtedly done along the way, both to clean sport and also to those who crossed his path and were steamrollered. He spoke about those too, saying that he needed to make amends, but that came across at times as being something that had to be done in order to move on, a box to be ticked, rather than an acceptance of real empathy.

But about his family, he said that he knew he had a real obligation to making things right in that area.

Winfrey: “Are you hoping with this conversation, your admission, saying you wished you had done things differently from USADA that your lifetime ban will be lifted? Are you hoping for that?”

“Selfishly, yes. But realistically I don’t think that is going to happen. And I have got to live with that, I have got to sit with that.”

Winfrey: “Certainly people are discussing…there has been a lot of talk about why you are doing it, what you are going to say, how you are going to say it. What is your intention or hope that is going to come out of it?”

“The biggest hope and intention was the wellbeing of my children. It really was. The older kids need not to be living with this issue in their lives. That isn’t fair for me to have done this to them.

“Also for the little ones, who have no idea. They are two and three. Oprah, they honestly have no idea, but they will learn it. This conversation will live forever. Everything that we do today. That dumb tweet with the yellow jersey lives forever. So I need to get it right for them as they enter the depth of their lives.”

…But not before a firm denial about the past:

After an ad break, the conversation shifted to USADA and what was said recently was an attempt to bribe the agency back in 2004. Armstrong may well end up sitting down with the agency in a bid to try to reduce his ban, but he had no hesitancy in contradicting Tygart’s statement on the matter.

Winfrey: “Travis Tygart said someone on your team offered a donation. Over 150 thousand dollars. Were you trying to pay off USADA?

“No. That is not true. And in the 1000 page Reasoned Decision that they issued, there was a lot of stuff in there – everything was in there. Why was that not in there? It is a pretty big story. Oprah, it is not true.

Winfrey: “No-one representing you?”

“Nobody. I had no knowledge of that, but I have asked around. Did anybody? Not true.

“I think the claim was $250,000. It was a broad number but they narrowed it down. That is a lot of money and I would know. That is not true.”

Winfrey: “What has been the financial cost. Have you lost everything?

“I have certainly lost all future income. And you could look at the day or those two days when those people left. I want to give you a number. You asked me about the cost. I don’t like thinking about it, but that was a $75 million dollar day. Gone. And probably never coming back.”

Winfrey: “Were you ever in a position where you felt like, ‘wow, I don’t want to get out of bed.’ I know you have been running, jogging. Did it hit you to the point that you didn’t know what to do?”

“I have been to a dark place that was not my doing. I have been to a place where I didn’t know if I was going to live a month, six months, a year, five years, ten years. It has helped me now. This is not a good time. But it isn’t the worst part of my life.

“You cannot compare this to an advance diagnosis, 50-50 odds or whatever the odds are. That sets the bar. It is close, but I’m an optimist and I like to look forward. This has caused me to look back. My mom and I are very similar in this regard. She doesn’t look back, we don’t talk about the past, we don’t talk about what happened. I have never asked her about my biological father. We just don’t go there…that was yesterday.”

The toll on his mother, the cost to himself:

Of all the people Armstrong spoke about, the one he said was most affected by his fall from grace was his mother. He didn’t make clear if she was amongst those who knew he used banned substances but, either way, she has still seen her son go from being a global icon to a worldwide villain.

The two had a close bond from a very early age and now, as the smoldering wreck of his career and brand is on public display, she has see her son’s reputation go from the zenith to the nadir.

“She is a wreck,” he admitted to Winfrey. “She is not the type of person who would call me up and say ‘Lance, I am wreck.’ But my stepfather called me and said, ‘your mom is having a really hard time.’

“I said, ‘I am sure. But she is a tough lady. She has got through other tough moment in her life.’ Then we were Facetiming with her grandkids and my kids, back and forth, and I saw my mom. And I thought…oh…this woman is wreck. It took seeing her to really understand that this has taken a toll on her life.”

Winfrey: “Before, obviously, that guy [a brash Armstrong] wasn’t even aware of what you were doing and how that was affecting other people. In that way, that was a bully, sociopathic, only obsessed with yourself, narcissistic behaviour.

“You called former friends, friends, associates last night to apologise, are you now in a space where you are not just apologising, but you begin to feel how you shattered other peoples’ lives. Are in in that space?”

“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah,” he answered. “And I don’t need to be back in that place where I can slip like that, take things for granted, and abuse privilege. We watched those tapes – if one of my kids acted like that, I would be apoplectic.”

Winfrey: “We all know that when you are famous, people love to see the rise, the heroic rise, and they also love to see you stumble and fall. Will you rise again?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what is out there. Again, we go to this thing…I do not know the outcome here. And I am getting comfortable with that. That would have driven me crazy in the past. And I am getting there. I need to get even more there.

“I don’t know. I am deeply sorry for what I did. I can say that thousands of times, and it may never be enough to get back. You are asking me if I can come back.”

Winfrey: “More important than your comeback...I am not as interested in your comeback to the sports world…I am more interested in what is going to happen to you as man, as a human being. Are you a better human being today because this happened? Did this help you become a better human being?”

“Without a doubt. Without a doubt,” he said. “And again this happened twice in my life. When I was diagnosed, I was a better human being after that. I was a smarter human being after that. And then I lost my way. And here’s the second time.

“It is easy to sit here and say I feel different, I feel smarter, I feel like a better man today, but I can’t lose my way again. And only I can control that. I am in no position to make promises, I am going to slip up every now and again, but that is the biggest challenge for the rest of my life – to not slip up again, to not lose sight of what I have got to do.

“I had it, but things got too big, things got too crazy. Epic challenge.”

As is often the case with Hollywood, and certain elements of the US media, the interview ended with a bid to neatly package his story it into a message for others. A rags-to-riches-to-ruined-reputation cautionary tale for those who had tuned in.

“It is an epic story,” Winfrey proclaimed. “What is the moral to the story?”

“I don’t have a great answer there. I can look at what I did…cheating to win bike races. Lying about it. Bullying people. Of course you are not supposed to do those things, that is what we teach our children. That is kind of the easy thing, there is another moral to this story. I think for me I just think it was about that ride and losing myself and getting caught up in all that and doing all of those things along the way that just enabled that.

“And then the ultimate crime is the betrayal of these people that supported me and believed in me and they got lied to.”

Winfrey: “First of all, thank you for trusting me to do this. You know what I hope the moral to this story is? I hope the moral to this story is what Kristin told you in 2009. The truth will set you free.”

“Yeah. Yeah. And she continues to tell me that…,” he said.

Fade to dark. End credits.

Now what’s the sequel?


More than one movie is planned, actually, although the dramatization of his life will now inevitably show someone with feet of clay rather than winged sandals. They may well present him as an Icarus-type figure, one who crashed to earth through his own ambition and hubris.

The next chapter is not written yet, of course, even if the Winfrey show was an attempt to try to shape how that outcome will be. Armstrong hopes to regain some degree of public sympathy, to start the path towards having a reduction in his ban, an increase in his bank statement and a regaining of at least some of his disillusioned fans and LiveStrong supporters.

But there’s no way of knowing how successful that will be. He’s taken an absolute mauling in the press, with part of that undoubtedly coming as a result of the way he tried to bully and influence the media over the years.

There’s also a real questioning apparent about the sincerity of his words. When someone as adept at deception as Armstrong lies so convincingly for over fifteen years, when so many people are taken in by so many well-acted words and when those with questions are stifled and shut up by so many with commercial or emotional investments, there’s a logical reluctance to be conned once again.

As former Armstrong friend and longtime critic Betsy Andreu said in revealing he contacted her earlier this week, actions speak louder than words.

It’s a hugely difficult thing to go on global television and admit you hoodwinked millions; let’s not doubt that. But fifteen years of defrauding people can’t, and shouldn’t, be excused in fifteen days.

It will take a long, long time for Armstrong to earn back trust again and many will understandably not take the risk of giving him that.

Actions do indeed speak louder than words, and in stating he never met Swiss lab director Martial Saugy, in shying away from naming names and in claiming against all evidence that he raced clean from 2009 onwards, Armstrong is facing an uphill battle far longer and far harder than anything he experienced in the Tour de France.



Also see: Armstrong/Oprah Part I:
Armstrong admits doping to seven Tour wins, claims 2009 return was clean
 

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