Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why I Won't Be Watching Oprah's Interview with Lance Armstrong

First and foremost, I will not be watching because it doesn't deserve all of the attention its receiving relative to other, real tragedies going on around the world. God forbid the media should spend a minute talking about climate change, for example.

I will not be watching because of the hypocrisy and vindictiveness of the media, professional cycling organizations, the IOC and others, who are treating the Armstrong case as a tragedy or betrayal on the scale of murder or treason. If they were insipid enough to believe that Armstrong was pure as the driven snow, while his competitors, year after year, were doping and getting caught, they should be taking a good hard look in the mirror. So should the organizers of the Tour de France, who made huge money off of Armstrong's drug-assisted heroics.

Granted, some individuals, like Betsy and Frankie Andreu have personal reasons for seeking vindication against Amstrong. I leave them to it. But the idea that Armstrong was uniquely responsible for the drug problem in cycling, or sports in general, is laughable. Would he have won seven Tours de France in a row without the dope? Who knows. But as between him and the other top competitors for the GC, the playing field was pretty level.

But tearing down champions has become almost a sport in its own right, ever since Jim Thorpe was stripped of his Olympic medals for having played two years of semi-pro baseball (for meager wages); and he was only caught because, unlike most college athletes who played semi-pro ball in the summers, he failed to adopt a pseudonym.

I have no interest in supporting or defending what Armstrong did during his professional career; I've never met the man, and have no interest in meeting him. Frankly, he doesn't seem like the nicest, friendliest guy you'd ever come across. He may well deserve everything that has happened to him, including both winning and being stripped of his 7 TdF titles, and all of the insults and lawsuits he is going to have to endure over the next several years (at least). But I don't for a minute buy the smug, holier-than-thou attitudes of all his accusers and critics, most especially other cyclists who themselves were drug cheats.

UPDATE: Apropos of what I've written here, I highly recommend the op-ed column at National Geographic (of all places) (here), by Roff Smith.

FURTHER UPDATE: I heard that Lance did not apologize during the interview with Oprah to many of the individuals he threatened or intimidated during his increasingly manic efforts to hide his doping. While I believe he owes people like Frankie and Betsy Andreu public apologies; I hope that, at the very least, he intends to apologize to them in private, and at least try to make amends. I'm not confident that he's a sufficiently sincere and self-reflective person to do what is necessary. Having gained a reputation as cycling's version of Voldemort, he has not yet shown any real remorse.

3d UPDATE: According to Frankie Andreu (here), Lance Armstrong has called him privately to apologize to he and his wife, Betsy. He said that Lance sounded sincere. It's difficult for me to imagine that anyone, other than Lance's family, would know what a sincere Lance sounds like.

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