What If?

Complete Name, event, location.

When I heard the news that Lance Armstrong was considering a confession, I chuckled. Back in the news already? We shouldn’t be surprised that he’s in the news again, already. Even without a confession to throw into the mix, the Lance Armstrong show isn’t over by a longshot. We’ve still got Johan Bruyneel’s appeal to play out, and that guarantees to make this story more amusing if nothing else. I say amusing, because I suspect Bruyneel’s defense will be as detached from reality as Hein Verbruggen’s suggestion that he knew Armstrong to be clean.

Then there is the possible perjury charge Armstrong faces due to his testimony in the SCA case, not to mention the civil litigation that could siphon off more millions than his lawyers have already swallowed. In short, news regarding Armstrong will continue to keep him in the media spotlight for a few years to come, no matter how tired you are of him.

When I actually considered the notion of a confession, though, my initial thought was that would be like General Electric paying taxes. Not gonna happen. The motivation for his possible confession has been said to be a desire to compete as a triathlete and runner. Could it be that he could have his ban reduced to less than eight years? This would be where we conjure the image of winged simians and sphincters. And unless his ban is reduced to less than eight years, all he would get out of the deal is the opportunity to be the world’s fastest age-grouper; he’s already 41. He’s not going to win Ironman—any Ironman—at 49.

I suspect that competition, while relevant to his desires today, is but a red herring to his longer-term aspirations. First is the issue of income. His net worth is estimated to be $125 million. Some estimates suggest that as much as half that fortune could be erased by lawyers and settlements. Given the expenses associated with flying around on private jets and the fact that he doesn’t have the money fountains of either the Livestrong Foundation or Nike to keep his bank account topped off (or outright cover said travel), Armstrong could be facing a lifestyle downgrade.

Armstrong needs the confession in order to climb out of the box he’s in. Right now, he’s disgraced and essentially unemployable. With a confession—penalties aside—he can begin patching up relationships with the likes of Livestrong and Nike, which would allow him to begin earning again, through a means other than wealth management. Americans love a good confession, and the only thing we love more than a tawdry tale is a story of redemption.

We shouldn’t bank on personal growth for Armstrong as a result of confession. See it for what it is: a business strategy. Confession in this case will simply be another PR effort. Confession may be good for the soul, but we shouldn’t expect that Armstrong’s motivation is a change of heart.

The single greatest motivation for a confession by Armstrong has nothing to do with athletics, though, and this is where a confession of some variety could actually pay dividends. Armstrong has long eyed politics as his next act following the wind-down of his life as an athlete. Should Armstrong be convicted of perjury, because it is considered a crime of moral turpitude, he’ll be unable to hold any elected office other than triathlon club president. A negotiated confession, one that is given in exchange for some variety of plea deal to take the possibility of a perjury case off the table, may be Armstrong’s most compelling reason to confess now, even though the entire world  knows enough about his doping to write a Wikipedia entry on it.

Forget for an instant that he definitely perjured himself in his SCA testimony. Forget that we all know that. A plea deal is just that, a negotiated agreement; it is about compromise, not the truth. If Armstrong can avoid being found guilty of perjury, he can run for elected office. Texas governors have a history of colorful nicknames, such as Dubya and Governor Good Hair. What sort of nickname do you suppose Armstrong would receive?

Politics. It always comes down to politics, doesn’t it?


Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. djconnel

    A key issue in the “competition” aspect is it’s unlikely he was ever good enough to win a major Ironman without doping, let alone in his ’40’s. Even his promising results after retiring from professional cycling have been implicated as being with Ferrari’s assistance.

  2. marek

    This is essentially inline with Armstrong’s smug character. He still thinks he can get away with anything in broad daylight rather than go sulk in the shadows of his trophy room. I hope that any such “confession” is treated with the disdain it deserves.

  3. Fausto's Schnauzer

    You wrote that “confession is good for the soul.”
    How on earth is that at all relevant to Lance Armstrong?

    1. Author

      Fausto: (snicker, snicker) Well, you’d be the first to come up with the novel suggestion that Armstrong has no soul. Everyone else just suggests that he sold it.

  4. SusanJane

    O.k. maybe it’s Monday and all, but I’m over here laughing and groaning at the same time. Sometimes the truth is just SO funny. And the soul bit… well I’m not going to risk the truth of that one, Fausto’s Schnauzer, but I did almost fall off my chair reading your question.

    Holy whatever batman, politics! Why didn’t I think of that before? Perfect fit. I hope someone even better than Kimmage and Tygart follows him around with a pooper scooper. I want YouTube of the dirty back room deals and special interest gift trips to private islands. I want emails leaked and rude talk show hosts pissing Lance off. And the best part??? I plan on ignoring every… last… bit… of it!

  5. Mike

    I’m sorry, there should be no forgiveness whatsoever. He vehemently denied ever using drugs. Even going so far as to challenge anyone who questioned him. Now, he wants to confess so he can move on with his life? Go get a job sweeping floors at Mellow Johnny’s.

  6. Rich Wilson

    Speaking of souls…

    I’ll take Texas politics for $400 Alex.

    This is essential for any atheist, especially one who has been caught with their hand in the cookie jar, to getting elected in Texas.

    What is finding Jesus?

  7. Eto


    Nice job on this one.

    My first take when I began reading the headlines was that he missed the one thing that brought him some level of satisfaction in his life… physical competition. I thought, how perfect and ironic that at this point in his life he can not even enjoy that? A type of purgatory for someone who has managed to avoid coming to terms with the truth for a lifetime.

    You dialed the focus out to include the most basic of even his necessities, making a living and planning for the future. Thanks for providing much needed perspective.

    @Rich Wilson: We should expect no less.

  8. PMAC

    How about Stretch Wankstrong?

    I love riding my road bike, I may even watch some spring classics to inspire my own weekend-warrior spring campaign. But protour racing means much less to me now. I’ll take cross and mountain biking any day now, the riders seem to have a lot more character.

  9. Khal Spencer

    This is strictly business. If it was a Come to Jesus decision, it would have looked more like Ebeneezer Scrooge the morning after the three spirits. After a little thought, I’m with Pelkey.

  10. Lachlan

    All so true. I can hardly decide if I really want to see it or not!

    For sure we can expect it to be done in a trade mark ruthlessly cold blooded & efficient manner, most likely spiked with some details or comments to settle old or just even perceived scores! WIll be a messy media feast if it happens.

    1. Author

      Everyone: Thanks for your comments. It’s fascinating to read the varied impressions Armstrong’s maybe confession yields.

      Rich Wilson: Yours is especially thought-provoking.

  11. Eto

    One more thing…

    did anyone see Bettini’s quote @cyclingnews.com asking LA to come clean? Bettini is the last person the cycling world should be hearing from. He may be the shrewdest rider from the EPO era having never been caught or implicated for obviously “enhanced” performances over his years at Mapei and Quick Step. while the Postal team was organized around one objective and one rider for 7+ years, the Mapei dynesty reigned for more than a decade in one form or another. That would be the biggest icon to tumble if the UCI or WADA were to go after it in earnest.

  12. Seano

    Life is a business decision… and yes, it always comes down to politics.

    Life isn’t fair – there are different rules for different people and people ultimately act in their own self interest.


  13. Steve

    I am not so sure how badly this would hurt his chances in the political arena. David Duke managed to get elected and he was a member of the KKK and Ollie North sold weapons to Iran and came within 3 percentage points (43% to 46%) of being elected to the senate. Hey, I had a thought, the Mayor of DC got busted for drugs and got re-elected so maybe we will see Armstrong running for mayor of Austin…..

  14. Jesus from Cancun

    … or, he could obtain Mexican citizenship and run for president.

    According to several polls, a big percentage of those who voted for our flamant new president did it because he was already famous, handsome, and his wife was a soap opera darling.

    He’s been doing a good job so far, though.

  15. scaredskinnydog

    Maybe I could get a job as Lance’s campaign manager. I’ve already got a few catchy slogans:
    On economics- “Every dollar counts”.
    Foreign policy- “Its not about the nukes”.
    Campaign slogan- “Vote for Lance, don’t ask why, Just Do It”!

  16. Paul

    Did anyone see the Space Cadet episode of Family Guy Sunday? (stupid show but occasionally funny) The Griffin family goes into space on a backup space shuttle.

    Peter: I always wanted to go into space like Lance Armstrong.

    Chris: That was Neil Armstrong.

    Peter: He lied about his name too!

    I can’t imagine a convincing apology. As a politician, Lance will keep blaming USADA and ‘big government’ whether or not that makes any sense.

  17. Pat O'Brien

    I will wait until the fat lady sings. Until then, if a frog had a glass ass it would only jump one time. This whole thing is like a water torture. Drip, drip,…………….

  18. gmknobl

    If LA confesses anything to Oprah, we’ll here of it before the 17th. If he says nothing substantial, we may not hear anything at all.

    I’m guessing LA contacted O if there’s nothing to say not the other way around.

  19. Sean

    “My first take when I began reading the headlines was that he missed the one thing that brought him some level of satisfaction in his life… physical competition. I thought, how perfect and ironic that at this point in his life he can not even enjoy that? A type of purgatory for someone who has managed to avoid coming to terms with the truth for a lifetime.”

    There’s always Strava. No USADA turning announced for those ‘wins’.

  20. Jeff T

    Another cycling related website pointed out that the federal statute of limitations for perjury is 5 years — less than that for Texas itself. So if he “comes clean”, there may be no risk that he will be charged with perjury. And the statute of limitations for recovering damages is often limited to only 2 or 3 years.

  21. RobbyCanuck

    Any “confession” by LA has to be viewed in its context – cynical, calculating and desperate. Real redemption requires the redeemer to have redeeming qualities of character. Armstrong has none. His fraud is the greatest in sports history. His denials, bullying, hollow lawsuits, in short his behaviour during the period of denial (1993 to present) make this that rare and egregious case where redemption should not be available to a serial liar and cheat.

  22. RobbyR

    Considering that LA used taxpayer money for his ill gotten gains and now is trying to use Ms O to get around being tarred and feathered for being a lying coward I think he should be sent to the Texas Huntsville State prison for 20 years. I am sure some of the inmates there would take a shine to him. Statue of Limitations? Hell, this should be done on general principle. I am sure that Ms O is doing this to try and prop up her dying cable network and empire. Those two are two of a kind.

  23. Trev

    I’d like to hear from more people who have been defending LA over the last 10 yrs. Christ, I have never since , probably, 2003 thought he was clean. I was fine with it, no big surprise. But what about all the folks who defended him on here, the bike forums (Padraig I think) etc etc…….do these people feel silly now ? I think the bigger story here should be titled WHAT WERE WE THINKING???

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