Armstrong film director Gibney believes Texan is lying about not doping in 2009 Tour de France
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Friday, September 13, 2013

Armstrong film director Gibney believes Texan is lying about not doping in 2009 Tour de France

by VeloNation Press at 4:21 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
“There's this great police phrase, ‘noble-cause corruption.’”

Lance ArmstrongLance Armstrong may have insisted that he raced clean throughout his comeback, but Alex Gibney, the director of the documentary The Armstrong Lie, has said that he has real doubts about the Texan’s version of events.

The American rider told Oprah Winfrey in January that while he doped for most of his career, that he honoured an agreement he made with his ex-wife Kristin Armstrong and didn’t use any banned substances after he returned to the sport in 2009.

This point is disputed by many, including anti-doping scientist Michael Ashenden and also Dr Christopher Gore, who stated in USADA’s Reasoned Decision that he believed there was just a one in a million chance that Armstrong did not dope during his comeback.

Both use his published passport data to show that the Texan was almost certainly blood doping.

Now, speaking about the impressions he got at the time filming around Armstrong and also in a more recent interview, Gibney has expressed his doubts.

“I think it's likely,” he said, when asked by Rolling Stone if he thought the then-Astana rider was doping. “I took one step back, but if you look at the data, it's pretty convincing. I gave Lance his opportunity to say what he had to say. But as [author] Bill Strickland says in the film, it's hard to believe. And I think that Lance is still adamant that he didn't. But it's hard to believe.”

Asked to explain his reasons, he said that it is a mixture of that data and also the language Armstrong used in the interview he gave Gibney.

“He says this actually in the film – he said, "I came back and I intended to ride clean." He didn't say, "I rode clean." He says, "I intended to ride clean." I find that very interesting. And I think he did intend to ride clean. But when it came to a choice between being on the podium or using that bag that he had for insurance . . . Because you can't just decide to dope at the last minute. When you blood dope, you have to prepare for it in advance… I think he had the insurance bag.”

Rather than dropping several percentage points, as Armstrong’s blood data had done during the 2009 Giro, his red cell levels at the end of that year’s Tour were actually slightly higher than at the start. A drop off is expected due to physiological wear and tear, but this did not occur.

Gibney was signed up to make a documentary after Armstrong’s return. It was originally to be titled The Road Back and was envisaged as being a feel good story about a sportsman coming out of retirement for one more shot at glory.

Both Gibney and Frank Marshall, the film’s producer, both seemed to be supportive of Armstrong at first and people such as Betsy Andreu had reservations about what would appear in the end version.

However Floyd Landis’ 2010 implication of Armstrong in doping sparked off a federal investigation which in turn led to USADA’s enquiry and, ultimately, to Armstrong’s confession of long term doping use until his retirement in 2005.

Looking back, Gibney says that he believed he was being used to sell Armstrong’s version of the story. “The suspicions of doping were there from the start, and I was certainly aware of them. But at some point, when the wealth of detail was revealed, I began to feel that I had been part of an elaborate con, that I was kind of a cover story,” he said.

“And so my role as a filmmaker was to have made this film where he could say, "I came back, won, and did it clean. And that proves that it was always good, right?" At that point, it all changed.”

Armstrong called Gibney in December 2012, six weeks before he confessed to Oprah Winfrey, and spoke more candidly. The director states that when he went to put all the material together to make the movie, he said he spotted certain ‘tells’ for lying.

“When you first sit down and do an interview, that's just how they talk. Then you go back in, you realize, ‘Oh, this is a different Lance. This is the Lance of the press conference. This is the Lance of the sound bite,’” he said. “And you begin to see how it works. I begin to start looking for markers, like when he goes to his nose. It's usually just before or just after he's told a lie.”

Asked about Armstrong’s drive, his motivation to succeed and his attitude to life and others, Gibney suggests that an absent father figure has played a big part in the shaping of his character.

“There's a lot of anger in Lance. And I think that's another aspect of his character – he's a fighter. His whole life has been, ‘Screw everybody else, I was never dealt a fair hand, fuck you all,’” he said. “The big problem for him was that it spilled over way beyond the sport as he became a bigger and bigger public figure, which had something to do with the sport, but also had a lot to do with the cancer.”

When Armstrong returned, his comeback was accompanied by much hype. In media interviews he portrayed himself as getting back in the saddle as a way of beating cancer, of launching a global campaign against the disease. There was also the ego-centered Hope Rides Again campaign, which used his image next to that logo and portrayed him as a great crusader and modern hero.

Gibney believes that Armstrong believed his own hype and used that to justify his actions. “I think that motivator [his absent father] – plus over time, after having gone through the cancer experience – that gave him a noble cause,” he explained to Rolling Stone.

“There's this great police phrase, ‘noble-cause corruption.’ It's about the cop who sees the mob guy but he can't get anywhere, so he plants a couple joints on the guy when he arrests him. He says, ‘Oh, you're carrying,’ right? And over time, you start to do more and more elaborate things. And you're thinking, ‘Well, I'm doing this for a good cause, so what's wrong with it?’

“And I think a lot of the cancer work that Lance did was like that: I'm doing so much good, so I'm entitled to be more than a little bit bad.”


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