Thursday, January 17, 2013
What Lance Armstrong Did
Posted by Michael Specter
A few days ago, I was waiting for a friend in one of those Brooklyn bars where all the bartenders have Ph.D.s in philology or phrenology or something. Two people were shouting at a third, who, it turned out, had a problem with Lance Armstrong.
“Everyone did it,” one of the men screamed. “Everyone. If they gave Tour de France trophies to people who were drug-free, they would have to find their winners in grade school.”
“He lied,” the anti-Lance man replied, somewhat timidly. “Why didn’t he just tell the truth?”
“Grow up, you moron,” the third shouted, loudly enough to startle the room. “Everyone lies.”
I am not the type of guy who jumps into the conversations of random strangers. But, at this point, I snapped, rose from my barstool, and began to screech. “Everyone may lie,” I said. “But here is what everyone doesn’t do.”
Everyone doesn’t earn thirty million dollars a year, nearly all of it from endorsements based not just on athletic prowess but on the golden aura of a man so pure, so dedicated, that he would bear any burden and endure any pain to win the world’s most gruelling athletic contest again and again and again.
Everyone doesn’t react repeatedly with outrage and vitriol when accused of violating the rules even though he knows he’s guilty, and then denounce and sue journalists who imply that he might have applied makeup to conceal needle marks on his arm. (Everyone doesn’t accept settlements from such publications, either.)
Everyone doesn’t make a commercial for Nike in which he ridicules any suggestion that he was ever “on” anything other than his bicycle, “busting my ass six hours a day.”
Everyone doesn’t raise hundreds of millions of dollars for their vanity cancer foundation, a foundation that—no matter how much good it has done, though there is some debate about that—was created and sustained by the image of a survivor who defeated his nearly fatal disease with a grace and dignity that he would never relinquish.
Everyone doesn’t get paid tens of millions of dollars by the United States government while representing that government (and its people) by leading a cycling team that was sponsored in large part by (and named for) the United States Postal Service.
Lance Armstrong was not a man, he was an idea; an American myth like Honest Abe and Johnny Appleseed. He was the little engine, brutalized by illness and then savaged by opponents, who could anyway, somebody who shrugged off hate and always took the high road.
I love a good myth. (So did those guys in that bar. They ended up acknowledging the magnitude of Armstrong’s lies, but had a tough time walking away from them, though, like me, they eventually did.) And I should say, as I have here, here, and here, that I bought it all for many years, and no doubt hell also hath no fury like that of a gullible, humiliated fanboy. (You can see my original sin in the 2002 Profile of Armstrong that I wrote for the magazine.) Yet, as the world is now aware, Lance has taped a confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey in which, she made clear on CBS yesterday morning, he conceded in some way that he was a lying doper. (Who else but Oprah do you confess to if you are Lance Armstrong? In America, papal absolution wouldn’t go nearly as far.) Oprah said that, while he “did not come clean in the manner that I expected,” she was satisfied with the answers. “I don’t think ‘emotional’ begins to describe the intensity or the difficulty he experienced in talking about some of these things.”
So why would a man who has based much of his adult life on self-righteous indignation confess now? Well, if the highly reliable Juliet Macur of The New York Times is to be believed, Lance had special reasons. He has expressed no remorse for breaking the law, for using drugs, or for deceiving millions of children (and a bunch of childlike adults) into believing that he was an ideal role model. It wasn’t even because he has jeopardized the future of Livestrong—the cancer foundation he began with money he earned through lies.
Nope. Lance has realized that the United States Anti-Doping Agency now owns him. He could have avoided any racing ban if he had confessed six months ago, but then he was still under the illusion that he could brush off evidence that U.S.A.D.A. described as “as strong or stronger” than any it has ever had.
You see, Lance wants to compete in triathlons and other sporting events and U.S.A.D.A. won’t let him—unless he owns up to what he did. That’s his reason. He wants to get back on the bike. But he will only race again (and probably not for years, in any case) if he names names, implicates colleagues, coaches, friends—many of the very people he threatened to destroy if they ever revealed the truth about him.
Despite having been spectacularly wrong about Lance in the past, I will make one more prediction: Lance will talk and talk and talk. After all, he wants something for himself, and what else matters to him? Because Lance Armstrong is not a stand-up guy. And he never has been.
Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/sportingscene/2013/01/what-lance-armstrong-did.html#ixzz2IFzh0H8I
To read another article about Lance Armstrong, click here.
Posted by Brett at 10:00 AM