Perhaps some of you are also labeled as the “guy or girl who rides bikes” at your workplace or neighborhood. Thus, today the inevitable question arises from your coworkers or neighbors or non-cycling friends. I’ve already gotten it five times this morning: “What did you think?”
Of course they are referring to the Oprah interview. I wish I could say, “I didn’t even bother watching it.” I wish I could say, “Next question, please.” But I did watch it. And I formed an opinion. And thus I feel compelled to share it, if for no better reason than to direct all of those who ask me with genuine interest “what I thought” to a single source. That way, instead of boring them with a verbal and voluminous vomition of thoughts, impressions, and semi-intelligible rants, they can just skim this over and stop reading and click somewhere else on the interwebs when they’ve had enough.
1. How did Oprah do? Well, it’s not over yet, but I think she did as well as a non-cyclist talk show host who didn’t even know a person named Betsy Andreu existed until two weeks ago could do…meaning, it was pretty bad. But, it would be like if I had to go interview somebody about theoretical astrophysics with only a couple of weeks to prepare. The resulting conversation would certainly solicit some ire from everyone in the crowd wearing StarTrek underoos.
2. Why did he confess? He was asked this last night and never answered it directly. A good friend and I discussed this yesterday and kicked around a bunch of plausible reasons. But it wasn’t until last night that I finally arrived at an answer: His ego made him confess. Let me explain. For the past two years, or however long it’s been since mainstream media finally got clued in that Lance is not some cancer Jesus and probably did dope, he has not been able to control the narrative of his story. And this escalated until some point over the last six months, when the court of public opinion finally tipped over the balance and swayed away from him. He lost the support of the majority of the general public. His so-called attempt at a confession last night was his way of grabbing the reins of his “story” and trying to take control of it once again. If the fact that “Lance Armstrong doped” is out there and generally accepted, he has to be the one telling it—not some uninformed CNN reporters whose only knowledge of bike racing is that the Tour de France takes place in some European country. I think it was infuriating him that he lost control of the story to non-cycling talking heads. Even in guilt, he wants to be the center of attention of his story. Now he has that again. I think he gets off on the fact that he garners this much attention, whether it is winning a race, or being the champion for cancer, or admitting guilt. No other reason for confessing makes sense to me…not after what I saw last night.
3. Did he really confess? To a few things, yes. However, they could have stopped the interview after the first two minutes. That was the only worthwhile part of the entire thing.
4. Is he sorry? Absolutely not. He said, and I quote, “I regret my comeback, because if I hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t be sitting here.” He is referring to his Lance 2.0, Hope Rides Again tour when he got the band back together (Ferrari, Bruyneel, and the gang) to ride in the ’09 and ’10 Tours. It was those additional tours that tipped off the biopassport police and infuriated Landis enough to speak out. So he regrets trying to come back because it lead to his being caught. Hence, he regrets being caught—not a single other thing.
5. Do you think he’s still lying about anything? Yes. Following is a list of the things I can remember. Please tell me what else I’ve forgotten.
- That he never coerced anybody to dope, or forced anyone off the team for not doping. Eleven testimonies would refute this in the USADA reasoned decision. See Zabriskie, VandeVelde, Andreu…etc.
- That the Indiana University hospital admission to his oncologists—which the Andreus overheard—didn’t necessarily happen. He still does not have the courage to admit that Betsy has been telling the truth this entire time.
- That Ferrari had nothing to do with his doping. He truly thinks we are stupid to expect us to believe this.
- That he rode the 2009 and 2010 Tours cleanly. In a word? Laughable. We’ll discuss this a bit more later.
- That the UCI asked him for the monetary donation for the anti-doping equipment. Again, actually, genuinely laughable, if for no other reason than he had just finished telling Oprah that he had no love for the UCI. So why donate $100,000 to them?
- That the UCI did not cover up positive tests for him. Again, testimony from Hamilton, Landis, and others refutes this. This story is still playing out, so we’ll hear more about this over the coming months.
6. Could he have ridden the ’09 and ’10 Tours clean? Why lie about these if confessing to 1999–2005? In my opinion, no, he could not have. Look at his biopassport data compiled by Doc Tbag over at the Veloclinic tumblr.
First, look at his 2009 hemoglobin during the ’09 Giro d’Italia. It drops as would be expected over a three-week Grand Tour due to volume expansion. This is normal physiology during a long endurance activity—your hemoglobin will appear to decline. This indicates that he rode that race cleanly. Look at what happens during his ’09 Tour de France, however—the green line. There are two distinct upward bumps in his hemoglobin concentrations, products of autotransfusions. And he actually finishes higher than where he started. This is why the USADA report accurately says that he was dirty during his comeback. We know how his body responds normally over a three-week tour from his Giro data. There is no explanation for the difference in his hemoglobin during the Tour other than doping.
Next look at his reticulocyte index from ’08 to ’09:
Think of reticulocytes as baby red blood cells. You always have a certain number of them swimming around. But to keep you from producing too many when you don’t need them, your body mildly suppresses their formation if you have enough blood on board already. That way they are only called if they are needed. If you artificially boost your blood, your body shuts their formation down big time. Which is exactly what we see in July of 2009. As Cap says, they are “in the fuggin gutter.” This is irrefutable evidence.
So the question remains: Why confess to blood doping from 1999–2005 but not ’09 and ’10? My only guess is related to the statute of limitations. Anything prior to 2005 is beyond most five-year statute of limitation restrictions and thus allows him to avoid certain lawsuits. 2009 and 2010 are too recent to own up to. Plus, I think he hates Contador so much that he wants the public to actually think he could have challenged him cleanly. Remember, Lance finished third in 2009 and was pack fodder in 2010. So if he was doped in 2010, why did he have such a bad finish? Because he couldn’t keep the rubber side down and traveled around most of the country on his ass, pure and simple. He didn’t have his typical luck in avoiding crashes. However, Horner was always right there with him, dragging his EPO-soaked body around. Somebody needs to start looking at his little bald ass, if they haven’t done so already.
7. Why isn’t he ratting anyone else out? He hasn’t pointed the finger at Ferrari, Bruyneel, Verbruggen, McQuaid, Steve Johnson, Thom Weisel…none of them. Why? My guesses? (1) Omerta, or the code of silence, runs deep. He’s used to this. (2) Those are his VERY last cards to play, should he need them. Should the feds go after him, should the government join the whistleblower lawsuit, he is going to need some kind of bargaining chip. So he’s going to hold those cards close to his chest until he has to play them. And then he will, if it will mean reductions in penalties. Then he can have a Confession 2.0 Tour to admit to lying on Oprah. Maybe Jerry Springer can host it.
8. Final thoughts? Well, I will reserve those for after I watch the second part tonight. (Yes, I know. I am an absolute idiot to return to this trough to drink, but I have to confess I will.) That said, I do have some “halftime” thoughts. First, a tweet from a cyclist and writer that I look up to probably more than he knows…he likes to be called “Wanky.” His blog is a mix of local ride reports and thoughts on cycling in general, including occasionally pro racing. As the interview was about to begin, he tweeted this:
Ratio of minutes on the bike today to minutes dissecting the antics of a sociopath?
— Seth Davidson (@fsethd) January 18, 2013
And I thought about this while the interview was going on and Twitter was literally erupting with comments from me and other individuals, fuming with disdain, piling on Armstrong. We had turned this into a spectacle, a drinking game, a freak show. It was like we were all watching a caged lion in some carnival in a shopping mall parking lot, wondering how he would respond to some poking. And when he began doing what it is he does—i.e., when Lance starting acting like Lance—and lying, and justifying, and controlling the discussion, the Twitterati attacked (me included). What did we really expect him to do? A caged wild animal is going to act like one every time. Upon observing this, we, to use an entirely politically incorrect term, went “native.” And suddenly it all smacked very much of Lord of the Flies in some odd way.
But Lance is not Simon, the innocent and kind-hearted creation of William Golding, who the hunter tribe kills in an act of group frenzy. And to compare him to a lion is a gross injustice to the animal kingdom. He is a cheat, and a liar, and a sad excuse for a person. And his story will impact cycling and us only as long as we let it. Will we really need to set fire to the entire island to finally be happy? Maybe so. We elevated Armstrong to the status of a god once before. Perhaps we can avoid doing it again, even if unintentionally, by not showering him with so much attention (which I take full blame for contributing to). In Lord of the Flies, the boys stick a pig head on a stake as an offering to the fictitious god of their island—an offering to placate him. To me, it signifies the point where rational thinking ends in the story. So maybe we consider this current and irrational attention to his worthless confession our final offering and once and for all be done with it…
Lord of the Flies 1 by TDSpiral….found here.