The Explainer: First, the Road to Recovery and now the Road to Redemption?

My hero, Betsy Andreu, channels McKayla Maroney.



Tempting as it might have been, my good friend Patrick O’Grady and I decided not to crank up and offer up a running commentary during the “Worldwide Exclusive” on Oprah these past two nights.

“Why bother?” the sage from Bibleburg asked.

It would have been fun, but mostly because it would have afforded both of us the opportunity to catch up with the group of regulars, who have come to call themselves “LUG nuts.” That’s a bit of shorthand for that little community that comes together during the grand tours for a combination of race reporting, thumbnail sketches of local history, haiku and a healthy dose of snark.

For a race, it’s a nice little place to field questions, offer observations and commentary and – if the occasion warrants – rude descriptions of people who take themselves way too @#$%ing seriously. But to devote two evenings to one of that latter group? Nahhhhh.

O’Grady was right. Why bother, indeed. Dinner, a nice Cabernet and even sleep were each a better option.

Instead, I took a pass, catching up on video of the interview and others’ observations in those quiet, early morning hours that have become my favorite time of the day. So, yeah, I ended up watching the entire thing, but not in real time.

To be honest, there is something rather liberating about no longer being obligated to report on the “Lance story” with anything resembling a sense of urgency these days.

What interested me more than the interview, though, were the reactions from those I respect … and those I do not.

Reactions I wanted to hear

On Friday, I woke up in time to catch the Sunday Times’ David Walsh on the BBC, offering a mixed reaction to Part I of the interview. David was making the rounds, doing his seventh or eighth interview of the day and beginning to lose his voice.

His were opinions I wanted to hear. David brought a healthy dose of skepticism with him to the 1999 Tour de France. He left with a high degree of certainty, offended both by the arrogance of a drug cheat who could lie without flinching and the apparent unwillingness of the sport’s authorities to do anything about it. It was especially painful in light of the fact that we were there reporting on the first “Post-Festina” Tour. 1999 was supposed to be the start of a new chapter in cycling. Unfortunately, it was … but for all the wrong reasons.

What I admired – and still admire – about Walsh is that he stuck to his guns. Even when shunned by teams, riders and, yes, even friends and colleagues, he did his damnedest to get at the truth. The man that the Armstrong camp constantly referred to as “the f#cking troll,” finally saw the target of his efforts concede that he had been right all along.

“Do I feel vindicated? I will be honest and say no,” Walsh said. “Vindication comes when you are challenged by many people and you need other people to say you were right. I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, but I never needed other people to say I was right.

“I’m glad it came out but I never needed that to know that Lance Armstrong was involved in doping in ’99 … and every time subsequently since that time.”

Walsh did appreciate that it was Armstrong himself publicly acknowledging that he had cheated, but he remained deeply offended by the interview subject’s unwillingness to concede, for example, that Betsy and Frankie Andreu have been telling the truth for more than a decade.

When asked about the now-infamous 1996 “hospital incident,” in which he confessed to using a veritable pharmacopeia of substances in the years preceding his cancer, Armstrong demurred, saying he simply didn’t “want to go there.”

Armstrong revealed to Oprah that he had tried to make amends in a call to the Andreus’ home days before the interview. When asked if things were “good” with his former teammate and his wife, Armstrong acknowledged that he has a long way to go before that will happen.

“They’ve been hurt too badly and a 40-minute conversation isn’t enough,” Armstrong said with heart-tugging sincerity.

Then, much like the Alien bursting out of Executive Officer Kane’s chest, the old Armstrong suddenly reared its ugly head.

“I think she’d be okay with me saying this,” Armstrong incorrectly assumed, “but I am going to take the liberty to say this and I said ‘listen, I called you crazy and I called you a bitch. I called you all these things, but I never called you fat.”


Why Oprah didn’t just lean over and slap him across the face right then and there shall forever remain a mystery to me.

Meanwhile, Betsy, a guest on Anderson Cooper’s 360 program on CNN, was floored. Her emotional reaction didn’t flare up because of that feeble and dismissive attempt at humor. Hers was an honest, heart-felt response to more than a decade of abuse heaped upon her, her husband and his career.

Betsy is still pissed and, dammit, she deserves to be.

So, too, is Emma O’Reilly, who, after speaking to Walsh about doping on Postal, was characterized by Armstrong as an alcoholic and a whore and then sued.

“She’s one of these people that I have to apologize to,” Armstrong acknowledged. “She’s one of these people who got run over, who got bullied.”

Please, note the use of the passive voice here. It’s akin to “mistakes we made,” not “I made a mistake.” Emma O’Reilly was “one of these people who got run over, who got bullied,” not “I made that poor woman’s life a living hell.”

In O’Reilly’s case, a big part of that bullying came in the form of Armstrong’s weapon of choice, the lawsuit. Indeed, it was something he so commonly used, he had to hesitate when asked if he had filed one against the former Postal soigneur.

“To be honest Oprah we sued so many people,” he said, finally abandoning the passive,  “… I’m sure we did.”

He did.

That he forgot whether or not he had sued  a financially challenged young woman, simply for telling the truth, underscores the callousness with which he approached the question. Rest assured, anyone in O’Reilly’s shoes being sued for libel by a millionaire sports figure, backed by a cadre of high-priced lawyers, would have no trouble remembering the experience. But for the fact that there many more examples, that answer and that answer alone demonstrated how little real regard he had for the people to whom he was “apologizing.” Contrite as he tried to appear, this guy really didn’t – and still doesn’t – give a shit.

Salle de Presse

Virtually anyone who has written about cycling at any point in their journalism career has weighed in on this one by now. Some of them I truly enjoyed, a list topped out by Bonnie Ford’s insightful and thoughtful ESPN column “Still moving reflexively in the rubble.”

Ford has followed this silly-assed story since 2000 and is among the most insightful in the American press corps. She is, by any measure, the best ESPN has to offer.

If you shift your attention to the other end of the qualitative spectrum, however, you hit Ford’s fellow ESPN columnist, Rick Reilly.

This week, Reilly’s column started with an email from Armstrong.

Riles, I’m sorry.
All I can say for now but also the most heartfelt thing too. Two very important words.

And my first thought was … “Two words? That’s it?”
Two words? For 14 years of defending a man? And in the end, being made to look like a chump?

No, Mr. Reilly, you looked like a chump long before we got to “the end.”

Reilly and a parade of others, including Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post, former pro John Eustice, the TV guys, Phil, Paul, Bob and, sadly, even an old friend and colleague with whom I’ve traveled and covered races, had to know. They chose to ignore the truth, denied the doping and, more importantly, stood by with hands in pockets while the bullying was going on.

They were the enablers who allowed a sociopath to run rampant through this beautiful sport for more than a decade, all the while inflicting incalculable damage on a group of fundamentally honest and decent people.

What I wish were final thoughts

So what are we to conclude from the two-night confessional? To start, for all of the criticism offered after the announcement of Armstrong’s choice of venue, I have to say that Ms. Winfrey did a pretty reasonable job. She did her homework, noting that she had read the reasoned decision and “all of David Walsh’s books” in preparation. Her questions were solid and based on allegations and incidents that a well-informed observer would raise. Her only failure was not to aggressively pursue those questions when the answer proved evasive. All-in-all, she did a good job and probably got more out of the guy than would a three-member panel composed of Walsh, Andreu and O’Reilly.

Personally, I came away from it pretty much how I thought I might: A little amazed at the fact that the guy was actually admitting to things he’d been denying throughout his entire career; damn sure that he’s not telling the whole story, carefully calculating what he does say and, finally, the feeling that all of us were somehow being manipulated into the start of a new and concerted PR campaign.

The Oprah interview seemed to be a calculated kick-off to the sequel to Armstrong’s original “Road to Recovery,” when he returned to cycling from cancer. Now, we’ve been duly primed and ready to follow this newly contrite messiah on the “Road to Redemption.”

Enough already.

Armstrong said he would like to open up and cooperate with USADA or a “truth and reconciliation” commission in cycling. Following the first interview, USADA’s Travis Tygart released a statement that he would like to have Armstrong testify … “under oath.”

I would enjoy that and it could go a long way to cleaning up the sport, especially if he opens up about the UCI’s role in all of this. Still, one of Armstrong’s not-so-secret motives in all of this is to reverse what he called “the death penalty,” a life-time ban from any sport that operates under the WADA Code. “Death penalty,” seems a somewhat hyperbolic characterization of a life-time ban from competition, but given the nature of the offenses, killing off this career seems fair.


I have my opinion, folks. I welcome yours.
– Charles

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  1. dstan58

    CP- Having watched both episodes, it was obvious that Lance was as desperate to control the narrative with Oprah as he always was with Postal/Discovery. Every moment felt rehearsed: never bad mouth anyone, be as humble and contrite as is Lancefully possible. I felt he answered most questions of fact truthfully, but avoided dealing with any questions of “humanity” as much as Oprah allowed. I believe that the only moment that wasn’t carefully guarded and coached was Lance speaking about his son. To that I say, “Lance, if you are that concerned about the impact of your behavior on your children, perhaps you might have examined that behavior years ago.

  2. Hoshie99

    That’s right – he will soon suffer a fate worse than a lifetime ban. People will stop tuning in. And that will sting far worse.

    We need to celebrate the many beautiful things in cycling and cycling media should perhaps endeavour to close the chapter quickly and move on.

  3. lfx

    Anyone who expected detail on doping practices i that forum is being unrealistic. The interview served one purpose – it got us from “i didn’t” to “i did”. Now comes the opportunity to dig deep and get the whole sordid story replete with names and methods and everything else.

    I think he might just give up the whole nine yards in the right forum if the possibility of a reduced ban was dangled in front of him. The interview was littered with references to it. He has thrown others under the bus before, he wants more than anything to be allowed back in the door at some stage, that is the carrot to get him to spill everything.

    While it may not be a popular view, I’d go with the reduced sentence if all the names and methods came out. That would show LA is not, in fact, bigger than cycling, and that the information on doping is more important.

    I can live with seeing LA at Kona if it means we can air ALL the laundry and finally get past this to a new era for cycling. It can’t be any worse than seeing Vino win the gold.

  4. BusterSci

    I’m no Armstrong fan, as my LUGnut haiku and limericks attest, but I still am willing to entertain the rather remote scenario that he’s actually trying. Tyler and others have expressed how hard it is to come out of a lifetime lie. LA has no experience with truth, or apology, or humility, or regret. Even if he’s really trying he’s going to come off as false.
    He wasn’t forthcoming and he wasn’t completely honest. He was very resistant to apologizing to Walsh–in fact it seemed he’d never even considered it until Oprah asked. But the hospital room is a $12M admission. Names and truth and details are things that could put people who are close to him in jail. Oprah is not where this info should come out.
    Pardon my dorkiness, but like Frodo at the end of Lord of the Rings, I have to believe that Lance/Gollum can be redeemed. But I certainly expect Lance to make that last grasp at control as he falls into a flaming pit of obscurity.

  5. Reid N.

    I gave Oprah an A- for Day 1 and a B-/C+ for Day 2. We needed less about how Armstrong “feels” and more admissions of truly harming people. Day 2 became about him, and less about what he did to other people. In large part, I think the general public (that lacks the cycling background) really needs to know just how manipulative and thuggish this guy was for the better part of 15 years. We go tthat on Day 1, much less on Day 2.
    More generally, I look at the interview from the perspective of a civil litigator who, as part of his profession takes depositions of people under oath. One of the tricks of an evasive witness is to deny things, but not with any specificity. So the questioner has to probe and probe and probe some more, making sure that every dodge, every inconsistency, is pinned down. Unfortunately, I don’t think Oprah did this to the degree that the occassion called for. For example, “Do owe David Walsh an apology?” Armstrong: Pause, chuckle, “Yeah, I guess I could apologize to David Walsh.” Oprah should have followed up, “Wait a minute. You hestiate there. Why? This is a man who spent the past 13 years of his professional life trying to prove the truth–that your professional life was built on cheating and intimidation. Not only did you repeatedly slander him everywhere, and try to make him a pariah in the sporting press corps, but you sued him and his newspaper for telling the truth. You got hundreds of thousands in settlement from the Sunday Times, based on your lying and manipulation of the legal system. And you hestiate about whether you need to offer him an apology? Why don’t you do it right now? Lance, look in the camera and say it, “I tried to destroy you David. I was wrong. I will give your company back the money I made them pay.” Here is your chance. Another example, the truth of the hospital room statement: “Lance, you say you won’t go there. Tell us why. Does it have to do with the other things you would have had to do if that hospital room story was true? Scrubbing medical records? Paying off doctors? Procuring a false affidavit from Stephanie McIlvaine?” The claim that he did the 2009 Tour clean required more questioning. The blood values — the very blood passport he says is effective — say he cheated. There was nothing about his character that changed between 2005 and 2009 to suggest he would have not doped in 2009. He was working with the same management, the same doctor, and had the same objective–to win at all costs. His suggestion that he refused to dope in 2009 because of a promise to his ex-wife? I have a feeling that he broke more than a few promises to his ex-wife over the years, and nothing about his conduct suggests that that kind of promise would have been any more sacred in 2009 than before. Oprah could have follwoed up more there too.

  6. Bill Harris

    Jail is most unlikely as statutes of limitations have for the most part passed. Lawsuits may be another story. Oprah did a much better job than I expected, but I just wish she hadn’t constantly interrupted him.

  7. Vince

    Hopefully the Andreus, LeMonds, et al. can see this “confession” for what it is: The (hopefully) final public act of a pathological narcissist. None of those wronged will get satisfaction from it as Armstrong’s real problem is an incurable mental disorder, the intensity of which is still practically incandescent. The only hope for anyone involved in this story is that Armstrong will be forced to give detailed testimony about every aspect of his doping program. Such testimony may then help improve the biological passport system, which may in turn help cleanse the beautiful sport that has been so important in all of their (and our) lives.

  8. Jesus from Cancun

    I believe that Armstrong deserves everything he is getting now. And everything that will come to him, too. You can not say it is unfair, because there are rules and laws, and he always knew the risk of breaking them.

    I think, if he hadn’t been such an asshole his hole career, he would probably be forgiven by now. How many other former champions have admitted to doping and now are going on with their normal life, many still in the sport? Merckx doped too, he did return positive results. And everyone still tips their hat to Merckx.

    Merckx is the first name that comes to my mind, but you name it. Anquetil? Fignon? Coppi? It has been widely known that they doped too, but they are still part of cycling history. They are heroes for thousands of fans.
    Maybe that’s why I don’t see anyone digging in Anquetil’s tomb to retest his bones for traces of amphetamines, but so many people are happy to see Armstrong get cruxified.

    The great news: Starting tomorrow, I won’t care. The Tour Down Under and San Luis are just about to begin. Then, Formula 1 season begins with the unveiling of the new cars at the end of January. And life will go on.

  9. Skippy

    Thanks for bringing this subject up , my take is similar to yours :

    ” A little amazed at the fact that the guy was actually admitting to things he’d been denying throughout his entire career; damn sure that he’s not telling the whole story, carefully calculating what he does say and, finally, the feeling that all of us were somehow being manipulated into the start of a new and concerted PR campaign.”

    The Guy has become so conceited that he thinks he can lead the Cycling fraternity , around by the nose ! Was there any mention of Johan B. ? You know , the guy he was joined at the hip from after the Vuelta 1998 , until the ” USADA Reasoned Decision “!

    Decided i would sleep through the ” Oprah Event “, as it aired at 0200gmt , and European News Networks were carrying speculation , hourly , leading up to that night . Friday morn , i was able to read Fatcyclist Blog coverage after watching TV Clips , that you had seen . BBC Sport also ran the transcript :
    not certain if the nuances were there , but it tracked well against what i had read & seen elsewhere .

    Amazed that the first minutes got the results , ALL were looking for . Then it kind of fizzled out into a speculation of when something of substance would reveal itself . What a yawn !Poor Oprah having to sit there realising that she had been fooled/used ?
    Saturday Morning , whilst watching the Skiing , with Lindsay Vonn winning , this World Tour Sport , apparently in another Weasel controlled Sport , i repeated the Friday procedure ?

    Skated on so many questions , either because Oprah was getting tired of the evasions or had been warned off asking about ” The MONEY People “? Not sure of Oprah’s funding , but i do know that UCI and UCIIC , should have been amongst the 112 questions she had compiled .

    Had You , Charles , David W. or Paul Kimmage been asking the questions , you would have had not only the questions , but also the Alternative Follow ups required to meet a variety of answers rendered .

    Lance is about control , count on the fact , that he thinks he is on a roll . It will come as no surprise when countless Op.s appear and IF the interviewer gets too Antsy , they will appear too Pushy to ” Jo Public “!

    Today has been filled with each News Network , trying to top each other by inviting comment from the likes of Paul Sherwin ( Phil & paul Lance Fan Brigade ) , Graeme Fife and Danielson ( Former Racer ) . David Walsh deserved a better Apology , than the half hearted effort BUT it seemed to me , that Betsy was too kind , allowing him to fill her ear for 40mins ?

  10. Charles Howe

    This was a publicity stunt, a charade in which he did *not* come clean, but only admitted to a portion of what can no longer be denied, tried to dispute the worst of it (e.g., his coersion of teammates), offered some fresh new lies (e.g., didn’t dope after 2005), extended the trauma he has caused to Betsy Andreu and Emma O’Reilly, and didn’t even bother to say *anything* about Greg LeMond. So to talk about recovery or redemption is absurd. Indeed, just about the strongest emotion he registered was about wanting to compete again.

    Kathy LeMond nailed it, likening him to “a drunken, alcoholic, abusive spouse who gets out of jail with a bouquet of roses for his bloodied spouse, saying, ‘Here, I’m sorry I did that.'”

  11. Margaret Anderson

    Armstrong deserves to loose everything, leave him in the same position he left Frankie, Emma, Michael, Christphe et al. That excuse for an apology was nothing more than a rehearsed, staged floor show, designed to try and fool everyone into believing he’d seen the error of his ways. In truth it was staged so that he could again compete, nothing more. His body language did not correspond with the words he was saying. Covering his mouth so we wouldn’t see him smirk when Winfrey failed to follow up on an important statement, defensive way he sat most of the time. He is and always will be a deceitful, lying untrustworthy individual not worthy of any more time being spent on him.

  12. Peter Dedes

    My larger concern is that he who I shall not name is bent on political office. Oprah’s interview of HWISNN,is only the first part of a process designed to make him electable.

  13. Steve

    I think he said what he was prepared to say. For those of us who know more details about him and doping and the sport in general it wasn’t as complete a gutting as we might have hoped for but seriously, he did give up the big prize. If we can all just let it go now, stop talking about him and focus on the other issues in cycling, he might just fade away. I keep hoping that happens to the Kardashians too but no such luck so far.

  14. Vanilla_Thrilla

    While she didn’t pin him down with aggressive follow up questions, I thought Oprah did a great job of showing the mainstream media and the mainstream audience how much of an a-hole Armstrong is. “You sued people you knew we’re telling the truth! What is that??”

    Viewers who had never heard of O’Reilly, Andreu, Walsh, etc now know exactly how this guy operates. She used the word ‘jerk’ often and even used the ‘sociopath’ word. Job done

  15. Charles Howe

    @CP: In fairness to Lance — though I’m not sure he deserves it — didn’t he characterize his penalty as “different” from others, and deliberately avoid calling it “unfair”? Unfortunately, Oprah failed to point out the reason why: the others cooperated and testified under oath, whereas as he refused this several times over.

    @J from C: I think the Armstrong case is (CP will like this) sui generis. EPO is much more of a game changer than anything Merckx, Anquetil, Hinault, Coppi et al. could lay their hands on, and I don’t think there is any disputing their grand tour wins, if not single-day events. LeMond, in his day, could say “drugs are not necessary,” and even make the case that e.g, amphetamines were detrimental to performance over the course of a 3-week stage race.

  16. Chris Lumley

    Lance’s denials convinced me he was doping many years ago. And while it will anger many of you, vis a vis the races I don’t really care, as that was the culture, for better or worse. But his ruthless thrashing of anyone who had been coerced into speaking the truth, as well as those few who did it of their own volition, is loathsome. But it is worth mentioning that his outside-cycling escapades, while quite possibly done to further his image, were, and have continued to be, of great value to many. So the yellow rubber bands now look like ads for the man’s ego- they still raised a lot of money, much of which was used to help others. I don’t think he should ever be allowed to compete professionally again, but if he were completely despicable- as now that he is down many are saying- he would have raised money for something else.

  17. RUV

    As said above, Lance is a pathologic narcissist. I was surprised that he owned up to his doping and lying and owned up to trying to ruin people who were telling the truth. It seems naive to expect Lance to give up all details or for Oprah to extract them out of him as if in court because frankly Oprah’s not a lawyer nor is her show a court room. Moreover, I’m sure there are legal ramifications to admitting too much on a TV show for Lance. But I am intrigued by ideas mentioned here and by Frankie Andreu in another website about how Lance may be witholding just enough information to exchange for a reduced sentence.

    I also wonder whether any apology or acknowledgment of prior events, public or private, will satisfy the Andreu’s, the Lemond’s, Simeoni’s, et al. I would imagine there is a lot of devastation for lack of a better term and I wonder whether any of those most commonly mentioned will be able to forgive him. My gut feeling based on the personalities evident in what I’ve read or seen on TV is no.

    I’m particularly curious about his decision to come forward and how he felt that if he hadn’t come back in 2009, he would not be confessing like this on Oprah. I wonder if he would have been so deluded/narcissistic/pathologically blind to allow his kids to defend his “innocence” had not this string of events unfolded. His son would still be 13 and likely still defending this. Would he have broke down then without the added weight of the USADA findings? Personally, I hope he had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach when he admitted he doped to his kids and I hope he keeps that feeling for the rest of his life to keep him grounded.

    Lastly, I found myself satisfied with his confession. Personally I had long suspected that he doped and satisfied that he owned up to it and acknowledged his pathologic behavior and in a public forum. He was straightforward and to the point. No more intellectually insulting comments such as “I’ve never tested positive” or ridiculous commercials as his “I’m on my bike 6 h day busting my ass… what are you on?” His confession satisfied me a lot more than the unctuous confessions along the line of “I just wanted to race my bike” like other racers who got off with a mere slap on the wrist. All those involved tried to appear as angels throughout their careers (even to the end) and they’ve all profited largely from the sport without serving any real punishment. Hincapie, Barry and Leipheimer in particular disgust me. Equally disgusting are confessions from writers using such excuses as being blinded by “my desire to see the best in everyone” and “trust in athletes.” “I always wanted to see the best in people” says this writer. I say he and others like him were blinded by money from potential book deals and other assignments, especially in light of stories of shunning other writers who had been blackballed by the Armstrong camp. If people are going to try to fry Armstrong, then I believe others deserve the same skewering.

    In the end, Lance tried to live a lie and thought he could get away with it and ultimately got caught. He’s paying the price now. I don’t believe he has irreversibly damaged the sport. People will always love being on a bike and riding them as fast as they can. Count me as one of them.

  18. topo

    Thanks¡ Good article¡ Agree with you perception of Oprah and wish she had been able to rein him in more on the 2nd half. I still think the hospital “gonna lay down on that one” is protecting his best frienf/agent Bill Stapleton, who was in the room. Bill heard LA admit to the litany of drugs. Then later Bill testified under oath in SCA case that LA didn’t dope. Then Tailwind & RSNT contracts with anti doping clauses. Bill could be disbarred, as well as heap of lawsuits. In addition, CSE had their hands in all the pies. Time will tell. Toto is Ticking!

  19. High Plains Drifter

    Not saying you’re wrong, but just wondering where the evidence is to support the theory that one of his top priorities is getting the death penalty reversed? Did someone hear him say that?

    There’s a logic to it, for sure. Except that, as a social pariah with zero chance of earning appearance fees, he will find himself both unwelcomed and poorly paid for his efforts.

    I’m wondering if its smoke screen, something to pretend to want while he goes after something else (like criminal immunity).

  20. Pat McQuaid Must Go

    OMG is the appropriate phrase in fact. Did anyone else notice that Lance sees himself as Jesus Christ!? (Oprah concurs with him actually.) The myriad references to…..”hundreds and thousands of true believers…. undeserved punishment……the death penalty (crucifixion anyone?)…this conversation will last forever, etc”….before Oprah’s classic “Will you rise again?” OMG indeed!

  21. Kublai

    Redemption is a good thing. Murderers can find their way, and so can Lance. But it’s not a public thing, it’s personal and private. It’s within. We need the public sporting, civil and criminal punishments to play themselves out first. Render unto Ceasar as they say. Then Lance can privately decide just how much he wants to change and redeem himself. Do I think he can strip away every layer of greed, hubris, dishonesty, megalomania, etc. and become a redeemed individual? That’s a very tough challenge, but if he did, the world would be better for it. And just trying to do it is better than not. Come on Lance, surprise us, but don’t just play the same old games with public opinion. It’s not about what we think, it’s about who you become.

  22. TTT


    While I agree that prominent cycling journalists must have known about Armstrong’s doping, I must admit to feeling some sympathy to their plight. What would have happened if VeloNews’ top Euro racing correspondent aggressively pursued the doping story? I’m genuinely curious to know what you think would have happened.


  23. Sean

    You can’t help wondering if the Lance Armstrong saga is going to start to mirror the plot from the movie Catch Me If You Can. Now that he’s been officially “caught,” how long until he is embraced by the anti-doping community and starts implicating hundreds of people in exchange for relative immunity and a chance to get back into racing? As morally conflicting as this whole mess is, I find it hard to believe that calculated movements on his behalf won’t lead directly down this road.

  24. Doug U

    1) Parents can use this scandal to remind their children that cheaters eventually get caught and it’s not worth it.
    2) Children are powerful motivators of parental behaviour and facing his children was one of the big reasons for Lance to confess.
    3) Lance is hardly unique in being an ultra high acheiving narcissist who cheated his way to the top and fluffed public opinion with charitable acts.
    4) Life is complicated. Values like honesty, loyalty, success and survival are in constant competition. Unless Lance literally rolls over and dies he is going to pursue survival, but hopefully with more honesty and less material success.

  25. David B

    How is it that Lance can intentionally destroy so many other’s lives and careers for telling the truth about his cheating and not go to jail? Opra??? It’s not just a game like some grade school soccer tournament. There were millions of dollars at stake and he defrauded and slandered many.
    Hopefully he’ll have to repay some of the damage he caused.

  26. SusanJane

    I do wonder how Lance feels about the Oprah thing. He spent millions of dollars and zillions of hours in front of cameras and on his bike living a very complex lie. Sure he’s angry, Lance is always angry about something. But what else lurks down in that cess pool? It’s a moot question, of course. His next book won’t help because it’ll be about him as anything but a confessed cheat and not about all the damage he has done to others and cycling. And what happens under oath will surely not be public record because he will settle or negotiate a way out of it.

    For instance “I have spoken under oath to the doping trolls but you don’t get to hear any of it because my lawyers are better then theirs. Nah-nah.”

    Or maybe “Truth and reconciliation commission… I told them to do naughty things with each other unless they met my demands for how, where and when I testify. Trolls are trying to kill me, you know. You should see my hate mail.”

  27. Jesus from Cancun

    Nice to hear from you, Dave from Iraq. “See” you when LUGging at the Giro!
    It would have been very funny to have had LUG for the interview, but… As Charles said: Naaaahhhhhhh

  28. radiator zeke

    It’s funny that Pelkey mentions the names of crooked journalists (Jenkins, Phil, Paul, etc.), but fails to mention the name of his “friend” that he worked with at races. That friend would be the king of crooked – Wilcockson. This is the kind of shotty and wimpy journalism that got the whole Armstrong sage started.

    1. Author
      Charles Pelkey

      That, Zeke, is a valid point. I was actually wondering when someone would bring up that glaring absence. I wrestled with it for a while and then finally decided to take my cue from David Walsh on this one. He wrote about the 2004 incident – in which he was asked to leave the VeloNews car – without mentioning John’s name in several post-reasoned-decision articles. He finally brought it up in “Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong,” the book he released in December.

      It’s a tough call. I recall being as excited at the prospect of working with John as much as I was about taking the job at VeloNews back in 1994. I had a great gig, working as a senior staffer in the U.S. Senate, but I was suddenly going to cover my favorite sport, with people I viewed as being at the pinnacle of the profession. I jumped at the chance, largely because I thought cycling would be more straight-forward, less corrupt and far more honest than a career in politics (yeah, I get the irony, too).

      I was disappointed to learn of the 2004 incident. Frankly, access to individual riders and teams isn’t all that important and is clearly not worth sacrificing long-term friendships for it. I learned that first hand at the ’04 Vuelta, because I had been listed in the acknowledgments of David’s first Armstrong book. It was fine that no one on Postal was allowed to talk to me. I think I did my job anyway. John made his own decision. I hope I wouldn’t have made the same one.

      I left his name out, largely because I was, as you say, “wimpy” about dragging out an old friend’s name, although it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out of whom I was speaking.

      So, there you have it. Call my work “shotty” (sic). Call me a wimp. That’s fine, but I doubt you can call John the “king of the crooked.” He made his choice, but there a many, many more ahead of him in line for that throne.

  29. Brian

    I was shocked at how callous he was by how many people he sued. This confession is only done to benefit Lance not to help the sport. Hopefully he will go under oath and take down the trolls in the UCI. Highly unlikely at this point..

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  31. Jesus from Cancun

    Charles: I have a huge respect for you and I understand your position about Wilcockson. I was a bit surprised to see you criticize him and his book in a past article, and I was not surprised to see you skip his name in this one. After all, as you say, we all know who you were talking about.

    I don’t get too carried away by moral extremism. I know Wilcockson was part of The Lie, an important part. But when I think John Wilcockson, The Lie is not what I think about. I think about Winning Magazine, about the best years of VeloNews and about writing with passion.

    Whatever unpopular choices Wilcockson has made, I still regard him as a huge asset to anyone who publishes his work. I am very much looking forward to read his work here at RKP again soon.

  32. Khal Spencer

    CP, I figured that it was JW who was not being named and that you had mixed feelings about filling in the blanks. No big deal. If I were in your shoes, I’d probably do much the same.

    Wilcockson’s lame blog posting on the Armstrong issue left me more than a little disappointed. But judge not, lest you too be forced to stand in front of that eternal mirror of judgement.

  33. BillWilk

    I was following the “live updates” on velo, without which I wouldn’t have known about the CNN stuff afterward. Of course, they put a little blurb when the news about the refinery raid in Algeria was breaking–kind of put the whole Armstrong thing in perspective. Yes, he did a lot of terrible things to a lot of good people, and he also sucked the air out of a major news story….

  34. Blake Barrilleaux

    Charles, is Mr. Wilcockson still part of the RKP team? The tone in your response to Zeke makes me think not. I have to say, if any of you can get your hands on some Winning Magazine issues from the early to mid 80’s, especially the early season stage race and spring classics coverage, I think you will then read Mr. Wilcockson at his very best. The ’85 spring classics so far are the tops. The photos from that year’s races got me into cycling.

  35. High Plains Drifter

    I so badly want to let this go, say “sayanoro, sucker, don’t let the door hit you on the way out” and just move on.

    But here’s where I’m stuck. For too long we’ve been divided into pro-lance and anti-lance camps. And I think that this — obviously, I hope — is the wrong paradigm. Each of us needs to decide if we’re pro-bike racing or anti-bike racing. And again, I hope that’s an easy decision.

    Does Ol’ Whassisface need to apologize to Betsy and Greg? Doesn’t affect next season, so I don’t really care. But does he need to explain JB’s role, tell us what Carmichael knows, etc? Damn skippy he does.

    Let’s change the discussion from “what does LA deserve?” to “what does cycling need?” We’ll never agree on the former, but I think we’re mostly singing from the same hymn book on the latter.

  36. Bryin Sills

    Good points but lets do something about those that aided LA. Let’s boycott LA’s sponsors and the journos that refused to report on him fairly. In fact, lets refuse to spend one more dime on anything cycling until all cycling media agrees never to mention LA again- EVER and LA’s sponsors return some of their ill gotten gains and that money is paid out to David Walsh, Emma O’Riley, Greg Lemond and Betsy Anreau. You with me?

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