Editor, White Cover Magazine
It’s a pretty simple question, actually. I always found him arrogant. Mean. Douchey. Name your adjective. I always thought that way, drugs or not. Something didn’t seem right about a cyclist who was so obsessed with the spotlight, who made a cameo on Dodgeball which only served his own masturbation habits, and who always spun his PR ambition into something presumably more honest.
I could never say anything, of course, because the guy had too many heroes. To insult the guy was to spit in the face of cancer survivors. To say anything negative was slander. Filth. Libel. And, if you think I’m being dramatic, ask the countless people he sued over the course of what we now know was a criminal career.
All due respect to those who have had their lives altered or ruined by Armstrong’s lies. But, when it comes to the journalists and the common citizens who feel betrayed or or angry at Lance for his deviousness and his very liberal definition of honesty, I feel the blame lies on them as much as it lies on Armstrong.
Rick Reilly is one. A veteran sportswriter who now phones in one column for ESPN every week, Reilly defended Armstrong until the bitter end. And, on Thursday, he was very open about his anger. He’s good at that. Always has been.
On Thursday morning, Reilly said he received an email from Armstrong that was short and anchored around just two words… I’m sorry. Apparently, those two words didn’t cure Reilly’s aching heart or mind.
“Two words? For 14 years of defending a man? And in the end, being made to look like a chump?
“Wrote it, said it, tweeted it: ‘He’s clean.’ Put it in columns, said it on radio, said it on TV. Staked my reputation on it.
“Why? Because Armstrong always told me he was clean.”
Well, Rick, that’s your first problem. As much as Armstrong deserves your vengeance, your veteran journalist should have been very cognizant of one thing: people lie.
Nobody should get caught up in their story. Nobody should believe a source beyond all doubts.
It wasn’t like Reilly just heard of Armstrong’s doping one morning and quickly responded with, “What? No. No way.” It wasn’t like Reilly simply got swept up in the nirvana of one man coming off cancer and winning several Tour de Frances. It wasn’t like his gut simply failed him.
No. Armstrong was under fire, and Reilly literally staked his reputation on it. As unfortunate and unfair as it is for Reilly, he made a mistake. A very human mistake, but a big one at that.
If you put all your chips in one hand, you’re gambling. Ditto for veteran journalists and their intuitions.
Last night, Oprah Winfrey aired the first of two exclusive interviews with Armstrong. While he was open in his answer, he was far from a humanitarian. Actually, he continued to lie. Nobody’s the fool anymore, so these are easy to catch. In one week, Armstrong has gone from a simple liar to a thieving pirate atop the Ridiculous Scale, on par with the NRA and Rick Santorum’s theories on climate change.
When asked whether if he thought he was doing anything wrong:
When asked whether he felt bad, at the time:
When asked whether he viewed what he was doing as cheating:
You see, we always end the doping argument with one simple but too simple explanation: So what if Armstrong was doping? They were all doping.
Well, it’s not incorrect. It’s an easy way to pinpoint the problem with cycling’s 21st century culture, and it’s certainly a legitimate argument. I use it often, actually.
It’s not, however, an excuse for Armstrong himself to use. It doesn’t exonerate him. It doesn’t take the noose off his neck.
“”I went and looked up the definition of cheat,” he told the ‘Prah. “And the definition is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”
Well, congratulations, Lance. You went and looked something up.
But, you can’t use that argument for yourself. You have to leave that to analysts and talking heads. Leave that to the general public. You can’t take an existential excuse and spend it on yourself.
Armstrong’s comment is equal to someone saying, “I’m not calling myself a hero, but yes, I am one.”
Every word out of Armstrong’s mouth was nuclear grade denial, and nobody bought it.
“He’s gone halfway, he’s told us he took drugs, he’s told us how long he took drugs,” said veteran cycling commentator Phil Liggett.
“He swears categorically he’s never taken drugs since ’05, since his comeback period. But that’s all behind us now… Where did he get the drugs from? Where did all the big money go to pay for those drugs? Because it’s very, very expensive to buy EPO. Who gave him the knowhow, the wherewithal to do it?”
Armstrong looked more like Richard Nixon than he did a simple, wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time cyclist. The only problem, of course, is that Oprah is not David Frost, and there’s still much to be said or brought down with respect to Armstrong’s moonlighting job as a modern day drug kingpin.
All he said last night was a more elaborate version of, “Don’t hate the playa. Hate the game.”
Well, don’t worry, Mr. Armstrong. Because of you, we hate both.