Photo Credit: OWN
Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey is not going to convince anyone he's a hero. On Thursday night, OWN aired Part 1 of Oprah's historic sit-down with the disgraced cyclist, who publicly admitted for the first time that he was using performance-enhancing drugs to win his seven consecutive Tour de France victories.
For ten years, Armstrong has denied every single charge of doping, whether he was being questioned under oath or challenging those who went public with the truth. Oprah did not let him off the hook for this, nor did Armstrong make any pretense of being a changed man. He was just a big jerk telling the truth, finally.
In Armstrong's favor, he was forthright about most things; He admitted outright to using EPO, a hormone which can be used as a performance-enhancing drug, blood transfusions, testosterone and human growth hormone in preparation for each of his seven wins. But there are still some gray areas in his story, particularly when it comes to anything he could be legally held accountable for (like bribing officials). Here's our take on where Armstrong failed and succeeded in his attempt at televised redemption.
He admitted he was more interested in his self-made legend than in telling the truth. At least he was honest in saying that he cared more about what people thought in him than in fixing his real problems. "This story was so perfect for so long," Armstrong told Oprah. "You overcome the disease, you win the Tour de France seven times, you have a happy marriage, you have children. I mean, it's just this mythic, perfect story. And that was not true, on a lot of levels... And I lost myself in all that. I certainly couldn't handle it. And I was used to controlling everything in my life."
He characterized himself as a bully. Props to Oprah for pushing Armstrong into admitting that he bullied everyone around him -- even if he didn't admit to directly pressuring teammates into doping. Armstrong also called himself "an arrogant prick." We agree.
He didn't lean on the "everybody was doing it" defense. Armstrong didn't claim that everyone else in the sport was as guilty as he was, nor would he specifically call anybody out. He focused on his own responsibility and admitted it was a heavy one.
He didn't pretend to be secretly wracked with guilt. Again, we're just accepting that he's kind of a crappy person and giving him points for honesty here. Armstrong told a stunned Oprah that he never felt bad about doping, nor did he even consider it cheating. "I looked up the definition of cheating, and the definition is to gain an unfair advantage over a rival or foe," he explained. "I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field." We definitely don't agree with him, but it explains his very misguided reasoning.
He didn't apologize to anyone. Armstrong told Oprah that he was personally reaching out to the people he'd hurt but refused to make public amends. For example, he didn't apologize for trashing the reputation of Emma O'Reilly, the team masseuse he sued and called a prostitute for going public with his blood-doping scheme. He said he didn't even remember suing her.
He doesn't seem to realize how badly he hurt people. His former teammate's wife Betsy Andreu was one of the people who knew Armstrong was doping; After she testified against him, he called her crazy, among other choice epithets. Armstrong told Oprah that he'd apologized to Andreu, but vehemently added that he'd never called her fat. Umm... okay? Somehow we don't think that's what she was most upset about.
He was evasive about his influence on his teammates. Other cyclists have testified that Armstrong threatened and cajoled them, as their team leader, to joining his doping program. "The idea that anyone was forced or pressured or encouraged, is not true," Armstrong said adamantly, while also admitting that maybe his teammates could have interpreted things that way. Shady.
He's still weirdly proud of his doping scheme. "Oh, we'd need a long time," Armstrong chuckled when Oprah asked him to break down his methods. Though he denied that his system of skirting drug regulations was as sophisticated as the World Anti-Doping Agency concluded, he didn't seem to take any shame in the existence of secret blood refrigerators or teams of hormone-toting motormen. He also fully believes he would have gotten away with it all, had he not made a cycling comeback in 2009.
He still has explaining to do when it comes to his "comeback" years. Despite evidence to the contrary, Armstrong insists that he used no performance-enhancing drugs in his final two races, which include a third-place Tour de France victory in 2009. Is he telling the truth? Is there any reason to believe him?
Part 2 of the interview, in which Armstrong talks about his family, his fans and his Livestrong charity, airs Friday night at 9 p.m. For more of our thoughts on Lance Armstrong, go here.