Amazing television. It’s 3.30am as I type this and I’ve restarted the tape and want to watch it all over again. The first 5 minutes were absolutely riveting. His one word Yes or No answers which contradict everything he’s said for 15 years was simply amazing television.
But all the time there was the feeling that he’s not revealing the whole truth. His assertion that he took no performance enhancing drugs during his comeback in 2009-2011 is simply not believable. I suppose it’s simply an inconvenient coincidence his admission to drug taking from the early 90s until 2005 fall outside the statue of limitations, whereas admitting more recent drug taking would leave him open further federal probes and investigations.
Oprah did an OK job, she obviously had to get up to speed fairly quickly – but she seemed to overlook a lot of the detail (e.g. about Ferrari, his thoughts on Landis and the UCI) in favour of getting broad stroke generalities.
If anything Armstrong came across better from a PR point of view when he was being cautious rather than when he let his guard down and spoke openly. His answers to questions on Betsy Andreu and Emma O’Reilly will haunt him long after this interview. His lack of empathy and understanding really point towards what many on live blogging on Twitter characterised as “psychopathic”. For example, it was reported that Lance called Betsy “a fat, crazy bitch”. Lance’s reaction was that he never called her fat. As for Emma O’Reilly whom he called a whore while under oath…? Well he couldn’t remember if he sued her or not. As was pointed out on David Epstein’s twitter (which you should check out by the way) Armstrong employed the passive tense every now and again, example: Emma O’Reilly was one of those people who “got run over”. Not “I ran her over and called her an alcoholic prostitute”. He also said O’Reilly was one of the people he had to apologise to. The truth is not your friend Lance.
Looking back at some of his comments one of the ones that stands out now is that he referred to himself as “an arrogant prick”. The closest he came to tears was after he was showed a clip of himself on the winning podium of the Tour de France in 2005 as he attacked the “sceptics and the cynics” for not believing in him. His reaction was embarrassment but he felt that it was a “lame” way to leave the Tour and he felt he had to come back.
Armstrong said he did not feel bad or that he was cheating while he took drugs. For him it was the same as having air in the tyres and water in the bottles. The discussion literally came down to semantics when he described looking up the word cheat in the dictionary and confirmed to himself at the time that he wasn’t cheating. Oprah really should have pushed harder at moments like that. Lots of references to him “not being a fan of the UCI” but Oprah didn’t push forward on that either as she might have…
All in all, sitting up here at a silly hour in the morning, I know I’ll remember where I was when reputation of the most successful pro cyclist of his generation and a once bone fide American hero was completely shattered. To put it simply, he’s a scary scary man, who perhaps somewhat less deluded that he was but who still thinks of himself as special and unbeholden to anyone. His control of his emotions even at a time like this though is impressive and yet there were many moments where he rattled off pre-rehearsed statements (the whole “scary” “scarier” “scariest” routine comes to mind). To me it seems he’s only caught out badly at times he lets his guard down, e.g. the Betsy A (“she wouldn’t mind me saying this…”) and Emma O’R exchanges.
That’s me done, off to bed, part two tomorrow should be good too. Disappointed Oprah didn’t nail him down on certain issues, but all in all I can’t see how Armstrong will come out of this with any kind of sympathy or understanding with the public at large.