I’m watching her part one interview with Lance Armstrong in January and all I can think is, “God, Oprah is hot.” Beauty, class, power—the woman has it all. If she ever interviewed me, I would happily admit to my sickest impulses and darkest secrets. But right now she’s got Lance Armstrong by the balls—excuse me, ball.
After years of brashly denying accusations of cheating and finally being convicted of doping by the United States Anti-Doping Agency in June 2012, Lance Armstrong attempted to “come clean,” if you will, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. The attention this two-hour confession has received by the media annoyed me enough to express myself through F-book status. My status read, “‘Biker confesses to steroid use’ and ‘college linebacker makes up dead girlfriend’ are not headline news stories.” It got the average seven “likes.” I stand behind my who-gives-a-shit attitude to the “hoax” by Manti Te’o (god, I’m so embarrassed that I even know his name) and the fake dead girlfriend he was pretending to grieve. I’m physically upset right now just thinking about it.
But Ms. Winfrey’s interrogation of Mr. Armstrong deserves better than my youthful flippancy. I just wanted to get away from it like every other American who gets a quiver of embarrassment at the sound of his name.
I think Lance thought that he’d get some relief if he completely exposed himself to Oprah. It felt like I was watching a soft-core inquisition. She started out with the yes and no questions: “Yes or no: did you ever take banned substances to enhance your cycling performance?”
“Yes or no: Was one of those banned substances EPO (erythropoietin, a hormone that boosts red blood cell production)?”
“Did you ever blood dope or use blood transfusions to enhance your cycling performance?”
“Yes.” (Nod. Squint.)
“Did you ever use any other banned substances like testosterone, cortisone or human growth hormone?”
“Yes or no: In all seven of your Tour de France victories, did you ever take banned substances or blood dope?”
During the whole interview, Lance rubs his lips together like he just put on chapstick. Oprah shows Lance video clips of himself brazenly responding to previous accusations of doping. Former accusers include wives of teammates, like professional cyclist Frankie Andreu’s wife, Betsy. Lance told Oprah about his apologetic phone call to Betsy in which he had a chance to straighten some things out. He claims, “I said, ‘Listen, I called you crazy. I called you a bitch. I called you all these things. But I never called you fat.’” Thanks for clearing that up, Lance.
Lance Armstrong began the interview with an honest face. This wears off by the time Oprah asks if he had bullied his teammates into doping with him. Lance ends up distancing himself from his old self, a common tactic among those who are unused to apologizing. “I’m a flawed character, as we well know,” he says like he’s one of us. When people talk about their own history as if they’re talking about another person, they seem to think that it pardons them of some responsibility. It’s like when people try to use the excuse, “I was drunk!” or “I haven’t been myself lately.” Who have you been? And who was the one who paid for all those drinks?
I don’t mind that he tried to save a little dignity for himself, saying that the last time he doped was in 2005, and not during his unsuccessful comeback in 2009 (when he placed third) and 2010 (when he placed twenty-third). He said his doping “cocktail” consisted of EPO (“not that much!”), blood transfusions, and testosterone. Of the testosterone, he said, “In a weird way, I almost justified because of . . . because of my history, obviously with having testicular cancer,” swinging his head and speaking quickly, “and losing [a testicle] . . . I thought, surely I was running low,” he said frowning.
That was just part one of the interview. To be honest, I don’t know if I can stomach another hour of this.
Nope, I could. I watched part two. Lance talks about what he’s lost. Within a few days of each other, he lost all sponsorships, and therefore, all forms of income (Nike, Trek, Oakley, all adding up to “a seventy-five-million-dollar day”). He talks about being ejected from his own foundation, Livestrong, in which he understandably sounded like he’d lost a child. Speaking of his children, it was only when he heard that his son, Luke, was defending his father from accusations of cheating that Lance decided to end the lie. This is what finally made Lance cry, but didn’t seem to arouse more than my pity.
I keep thinking about his appearance in Dodgeball, when he guilts a fleeing Peter LaFleur into overcoming his fear. He says he thought of giving up after being diagnosed with three cancers at once, but instead came back to win the Tour de France (however) many times. It doesn’t seem so funny now. I also keep thinking about Robin Williams, Live on Broadway, when he talks about his friend in the Tour de France. The French, he says, are always accusing Lance of being on chemicals and Robin says, “It’s chemo-therapy you little toad-sucker!” We wish.
What makes this news and much more than the phony story about some deceased sweetheart is that Lance Armstrong was a hero. He was diagnosed with three cancers at once, lost a nut, beat the disease, then came back to win seven Tour de France titles. He was an American hero, our hero, and if he’s a no-good bully and a cheater, it makes us all feel like cheats, liars, and bullies. Does this throw suspicion on his only unsoiled victory, the one against cancer? It wasn’t enough for Lance to cheat death; he had to cheat all of us too.
And the worst part is he said, “ex cetra,” which if you’ve ever translated the abbreviation etc., you’d know its et cetera and it’s pronounced like it’s spelled. God, what a prick.
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/55269648@N04/8392000414