As expected, during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong admitted to doping.
The interview was conducted between the two on Monday, the first half of which aired Thursday night on Winfrey's own network, OWN.
Armstrong's back story is known to just about every sports fan in the country, and maybe even the world. He beat cancer to win seven Tour de France titles and a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics. All of those titles have been stripped, with the bronze medal just being stripped this week (via USA Today).
Even prior to the interview, public opinion had turned heavily against Armstrong after the USADA made public its stockpile of evidence, tossing the former cyclist (via Brent Schroetenboer of USA Today) into a terrible position.
As a result of the truth coming to light, he lost all of his sponsorships and was forced to step down as the head of the LIVESTRONG Foundation (h/t ESPN). It was one of the biggest falls from grace in the history of sports.
Now essentially at rock bottom, Armstrong will want to ingratiate himself back with the public that hailed him as a hero. The interview with Winfrey was one of the first steps in that process.
While the circumstances were far less severe, sports fans might have thought back to The Decision on ESPN and how Jim Gray asked superfluous questions before finally asking him where he would play.
The sports media blog Awful Announcing summed it up well:
Let's hope Oprah doesn't start by asking Lance Armstrong about biting his nails.— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 18, 2013
For those worried about the interview consisting of softballs to try and endear Armstrong back to the public, Winfrey got right down to brass tacks immediately.
The first question she asked Armstrong was whether or not he used banned substances that would have helped his performance, to which he answered yes.
For the most part, Armstrong was completely forthcoming and willing to admit fault, albeit not exactly in the most heartfelt manner. He said (h/t Russell Goldman of ABC News):
"I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times," he said. "I know the truth. The truth isn't what was out there. The truth isn't what I said.
"I'm a flawed character, as I well know," Armstrong added. "All the fault and all the blame here falls on me."
He remained stoic for pretty much the entire interview, his emotions hardly ever changing, no matter what he was admitting to.
Much has been made of how the "culture" surrounding professional cycling has been infested by drugs like EPO and processes like blood spinning and transfusions.
Armstrong went on to say that while he shouldn't be blamed for the environment in which cycling found itself in, he did nothing to stop it. For that, he deserves the criticism leveled at him.
BBC Sport tweeted Armstrong's response to what he saw as the culture at the time:
Lance Armstrong said that he did not consider himself a "cheat" at the time & saw doping as "a level playing field." bbc.in/XHTtaH— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 18, 2013
He was also very adamant not to name names and throw other cyclists under the bus. When asked by Winfrey to speculate as to what others were doing, Armstrong refused, saying that he wasn't around those cyclists, so he can't speak to their innocence or guilt.
Armstrong revealed that he had stopped doping in 2005.
The Score tweeted what he had said:
"The last time I crossed the line was 2005." Lance Armstrong says he didn't dope in his comeback to the sport of cycling in 2009 and 2010— The Score (@theScore) January 18, 2013
That would mean that the 2009 and 2010 Tours de France, during which he finished third and 23rd, respectively, would have been while he was completely clean.
Coincidentally, Armstrong said it was his return that eventually got him in trouble.
Evan Doherty of Yahoo! Sports tweeted:
Lance Armstrong believes he would've had "much better chances" of getting away w/ doping if he didn't ride Tour de France in 2009 & 2010.— Evan Doherty (@YSportsEvan) January 18, 2013
One of the more lobbied criticisms of the cyclist was how he sued those who accused him of doping.
Emma O'Reilly was a former masseuse of Armstrong's who made public claims about his cheating (h/t Mary Pilon of The New York Times). She was sued by Armstrong, who then called her derogatory names.
During the interview, Armstrong said that he reached out to O'Reilly to personally apologize.
Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated summed up the situation well:
Lance Armstrong's answers on Betsy Andreu and Emma O'Reilly will haunt him long after this airs. Devoid of any empathy.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) January 18, 2013
When considering the strength of his defiance in the face of those who accused him of doping, many who watched the interview might have expected Armstrong to try to endear himself a little more.
Christine Brennan of USA Today was of the opinion that Armstrong simply dug the hole deeper for himself:
Some might be surprised by how emotionless Armstrong looked during the interview. There were no tears and no heartfelt apologies from the bottom of his heart.
Going by body language, Armstrong looked to remain a little more defiant.
Rick Reilly of ESPN wasn't convinced whatsoever by the interview:
Sitting back in his chair, legs crossed, relaxed, a grin now and then, does #LanceArmstrong look contrite to you?— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) January 18, 2013
As a result of this interview, it seems that Armstrong still has quite a bit of work to do in order to try and rebuild his image to a level anywhere near what it once was. And if possible, he has managed to actually make people think less of him than before.
Although, this shouldn't be all that surprising from him. Armstrong has always managed to defy the odds his entire life.
You can read much of the transcript on ESPN.com.
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