If you’re not already tired of hearing lie after lie fall from the mouth of Lance Armstrong, you might go and see the Armstrong Lie. I did over Thanksgiving weekend. Even though I was sick of the lies. I’ve been watching Armstrong lie for decades now, so there was nothing new here. Just a renewed appreciation for how good he was at doing it. Damn, was he good. His performances on the bike are far less impressive than the staunch assertions of innocence and denials of positive tests.
We all had our suspicions in the early 1990’s, before cancer, before he’d hit the really big time. They were more than suspicions. They were the skinny whisperings of the bike racing subculture. They were stories from the friends of friends, the guys we’d grown up racing with who’d made it. Guys like George Hincapie. Guys like Frankie Andreu. Nobody actually talked about it. But we all knew. Yet we couldn’t prove anything.
So, in a way, it was satisfying to hear Armstrong and his teammates talk about the early doping days. Because I was still racing against them in those days. So when I see them talk in those tight frame, documentary-style interviews about the drugs they did, I think back to the races where they chased me down, or dropped me, or blew up the race. Actually, it was kind of frustrating. And it made me angry for the next few days.
The documentary wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. It was supposed to be the story of Armstrong’s comeback to win the 2009 Tour de France. But that didn’t go as planned. What was supposed to be the crowning moment in the Armstrong trilogy (pre-cancer, 7-times Tour winner, comeback king) turned into a sad little epilogue about a drug cheat, his fall from grace, and his pathological inability to take ownership for what he did.
I’m impressed that Alex Gibney was able to get him to sit down and talk at all. And I’m still wondering why Armstrong agreed…though I suspect it is part of his rehabilitation effort so that he can get the lifetime ban lifted and compete again — I can’t imagine what he’d do otherwise. He’s toxic from a sponsorship and endorsement perspective. His own charity has severed ties with him. His assets are dwindling. With the DOJ whistleblower suit moving forward, he’s likely to be sharing a fair portion of it with ex-teammate, Floyd Landis.