Friday, January 18, 2013

Not Buying Into Lance Armstrong's Admission

He should have been real and genuine, not a liar or a fraud. If he ever wants to move on with his life, past the wrenched era of a doping scandal that exposed nothing but lies and fabricated stories to scar his name in its entirety, Lance Armstrong would have totally come clean on Oprah's couch. But as it stands, from watching his vague interview with Oprah Winfrey, he's not ready to speak publicly and candidly, still refusing to get into the specifics of his confession to doping. He was not contrite and apologetic when he finally confessed that he used PEDs during his reign as an American cyclist.

“This story was so perfect for so long,” Armstrong told Winfrey, discussing his recovery in the aftermath of his 1996 cancer diagnosis. “You overcome the disease, you win the Tour de France seven times, you have a happy marriage, you have children — it’s just a mythic, perfect story, and it wasn’t true.”

We wanted to believe he was the greatest cyclist ever to represent the United States in the Tour de France, a symbol of patriotism, the one man who was honest and never used banned substances to achieve his success. We wanted to believe he would never try to beat the system or mislead people during and after his cycling career, the one man America watched ride and cross the finish line a winner annually at Tour de France. It's a shame, then, that all of this was a lie, turning a once-respected career into infamy as Armstrong cheated to have a competitive edge over other cyclists. It was not a de facto admission, and for all we know, he could have appeared on camera and stared deep into Oprah's eyes for clawing back sponsors and winnings. Armstrong, considerably the greatest of all time in his sport, says he never failed a doping test.

So why come clean now?

The day was eventually coming when Armstrong would uncover the truth, trying whatever it takes to stop reduction of multi-million dollar financial liabilities, trying whatever it takes to earn more money and rekindle a relationship with sponsorships. It's all about money, not about protecting his name or mending an image. It's all about pocketing cash, not about whether he's tarnished forever. He couldn't care less whether he's perceived as the greatest cyclist ever. What he wants is money, and he's satisfied, judging by his actions during the interview.

The disgraced cyclist was caught in a web of lies and doesn't -- all of a sudden -- want to divulge every factual detail to finally end what is a draining saga and try his hardest to repair a damaged image. In a society filled with deceit and mendacity, he's lost our trust, our respect and our admiration. As we should not have any sympathy and should instead be skeptical, when he still owes hundreds of apologizes and more specifics to complete his side of the story that is very obscure and incomprehensible, Armstrong has destroyed a tattered legacy as America was lied to entirely.

He's forever tainted and will have to live with the fact that he deceived everyone and had been too scummy to disclose the truth, only making it worse for himself by not publicly delivering the truth much sooner. The speculations are over, he's finally come out of his hidden closet and succumbed to reality, but a televised confession hurt more than it helped. The story certainly isn't going to fade away any time soon after his refusal to give any clues and after denying any and all facts, which he may have blatantly lied when he stopped doping.

"That's the only thing in this whole report that upset me," Armstrong said during the interview. "The accusation and alleged proof that they said I doped [in 2009] is not true. The last time I crossed the line, that line was 2005."

After years of denials and lawsuits, the allegations were true all along and many in the sport assumed he was using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his exalted career, including during his unbelievable pursuit of seven straight Tour de France championships from 1999 to 2005. Visiting Oprah, however, was not good enough to restore credibility but he tried desperately so. The legend of Armstrong was built on unprecedented Tour de France victories, but none of that matters now when, in fact, nobody wants to acknowledge such an incredible feat. They've had it with the lies and deceptiveness. It is all more amazing that he revealed little to almost nothing and instead was more concerned with compromising his position in the lawsuit.

For 90 minutes, he talked with Winfrey and should not have considered it a mea culpa after coming off as a jerk. The entire time he sat with Oprah, he was defiant, arrogant and oblivious. It's never been about other people's feelings, but about Lance Armstrong -- though he said he'd start reaching out to those he publicly humiliated and wronged. The person especially hurt by all of this includes Frankie Andreu's wife, Betsy, who testified in 2006 that Armstrong used endurance boosting EPO while going through cancer treatment in 1996. The truth is, he came clean too late, willingly putting out there that he'd get in touch with former massage therapist Emma O'Reilly and reporter David Walsh.

"I guess we know why I was [a bitch] all these years, putting up with that," Betsy said on CNN on Thursday night after watching the interview. "How was I supposed to act? Sweet as apple pie? … That exchange right there, it has me furious."

Because O'Reilly later told the truth about Armstrong's drug use and testified, Armstrong reacted by calling her a whore and a drunk under his breath. He tried to insult people's intelligence, he tried to make everyone else indeed feel as if they were wrong and bullied anyone who thought he was doping. Turns out they were right about Armstrong. It's hard to buy into his admission when he sued so many people for telling the damn truth. It's amazing that he can't remember people he sued through out the years to cover up his lies and bury the truth -- ruining relationships with close friends, teammates, business partners and associates. At one point, he couldn't tell the folks watching, including Oprah, the number of people he sued. More recently, the USADA charged Armstrong with doping throughout his career, and then a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Armstrong against the USADA.

It took time to actually hear from Armstrong, who finally stepped into the public eye and failed to tell the truth, not realizing the seriousness of how he may have ruined people's lives, including his reputation and image eternally. There is, believe it or not, no cure and no hope of reviving his career at this point, especially when a lot of questions still need to be answered. If he were to say too much, then he would have likely come across as too inauthentic, too rehearsed, almost like a hypocrite appearing on national TV. And then again, he may have not broken silence completely and sincerely to impress the American people to forgive him, persuading those angry at him to pretend as if he's done nothing wrong.

He knows the difference between right from wrong and knew doping was absolutely egregious, but what he failed to realize was that one day he would have to pay the consequences. Relatively speaking, he's looking for redemption, trying to save his Livestrong Foundation and trying to win the hearts back that he betrayed and disgusted with his lies and dirtiness.

This, however, won't be enough.

If this seems disturbing, it's because it is.

This is a story of humiliation endured in pursuit of public redemption, a man slightly coming clean for future liabilities, sympathy, criminal exposure, disgruntled cancer supporters and survivors and mitigation of his anti-doping sanction -- all because he is, in theory, hopeful he can reclaim his lucrative sponsorship deals. As one of America's sports encounters a downfall ... as the queen of media prepared 112 questions for the interview in hopes to find out the truth behind Armstrong's allegations ... he claimed that doping was an outbreak among cyclists.

The bad thing is, he declined to cover specifics or any cyclists' drug use, and admittedly said he used erythropoietin (EPO), testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone. It should come as no surprise that he played a part in blood doping and blood transfusions. It would be interesting, now that he openly took responsibility and fessed up, to see whether or not he eventually tell the whole thing. It seems as if there's more to this story and only he knows what actually happened.

“I don’t want to accuse anybody else. I don’t want to necessarily talk about anybody else,” Armstrong said. “I made the decisions, those are my mistakes, and I’m sitting here today to acknowledge that.”

The beginning of the interview was yes-or-no questions from Winfrey, and finally he acknowledged that he illegally used a number of banned substances. No, that wasn't a cure. That was a step closer to finding closure, maybe not redemption or forgiveness but an ending to a decade-long saga surrounding a cyclist who misrepresented his side of the story and bamboozled riders and the American people. As the interview proceeded, he was asked whether he could have won seven straight Tour de France titles without doping.

By hearing that question, Armstrong said, "Not in my view." He either had no confidence within his abilities or just wanted it so badly that he engaged in doping -- then again, he may have been referencing it to other cyclists who were allegedly using PEDs. Maybe it was a rampant growth of riders illegally abusing drugs for an advantage in competition. He isn't ashamed, and he isn't concerned with rehabilitating his life. He wants to make sure he earns something out of this. He wants money when nothing else matters, not even earning back people's trust. This created unnecessary hostility for what was supposed to be a start for redemption, and by following through on the interview, he took a step backwards and dug a deeper hole.

Armstrong told Winfrey it was “scary” that he didn’t feel he was wrong by doping, which he said started in the 1990s. Then, after he discussed that doping was "scary," he avowed that it was "even scarier" that he never felt bad about it. Back then, he didn't realize that the “scariest” part of his PED use was that cheating never bothered him -- too brazened and too arrogant -- and so he continued to use banned substances.

“I’m not sure this is an acceptable answer, but that’s like saying we have to have air in our tires or we have to have water in our bottles,” Armstrong said. “In my view, (doping) was part of the job. ... I didn’t invent the culture, but I didn’t try to stop the culture, and that’s my mistake. That’s what I have to be sorry for.”

Oh, really? It was part of the job?

It wasn't part of the job. Armstrong chose to dope. Nobody persuaded him to cheat. Nobody made him try anything. He brought it on himself, and now wants to blame other cyclists for inspiring him to use banned substances. But suddenly, the question about the US Postal Service came -- he was kind of put on the spot by Winfrey when he was forced to explain whether he pressured other riders, as a leader on the team, to use PEDs.

“I guess I could have (pressured teammates to use PEDs), but I never did,” Armstrong said. “There was a level of expectation. We expected guys to be fit, to be strong, to perform, but I certainly didn’t (make threats). ... Even if I don’t say it, but I do it, and I’m the leader of the team, you’re leading by example, and that’s a problem.”

If there's one person relieved by all of this, it's USADA chief Travis Tygart, who pursued the case against Armstrong. He was, and still remains, somewhat at ease and said it was just a start for Armstrong.

"His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction," Tygart said in a statement. "But if he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities.”

After watching this, some will forgive and forget, while some won't ever forgive and forget.