In the world of sports, it doesn’t get much worse than Lance Armstrong.
Forget all this charitable work, all the ugly yellow Livestrong bracelets, all the cancer patients he’s inspired; Armstrong as a cyclist is filth.
Armstrong went to Oprah on Monday and reportedly admitted to doping, completely reversing his stance and basically affirming what most of the country already believed: he’s a cheat and a scoundrel, someone not worth the brand that has become synonymous with overcoming overwhelming odds.
The fact that Armstrong went to Oprah tells sports fans he doesn’t care about them. Oprah isn’t qualified to interview Armstrong on sports doping, and Armstrong knows that.
Plus, Oprah is no longer national TV. I’ve never even seen the Oprah Winfrey Network nor do I have access to it. (For the record, the OWN can be found locally on Suddenlink 105, DirecTV 279, Dish Network 189, Verizon FiOS 161 and AT&T U-Verse 170. The interview airs 8 p.m. Thursday.)
For a dozen years all we’ve heard from Armstrong about performance enhancing drug use is his staunch, vehement defense that often turned to offense against his accusers.
It was a consistent defense that had the average American fooled, or at least no one wanted to believe that someone would go through so much trouble after conquering cancer just so he could cheat his way to winning some bike races (a sport that no one cared about before and hasn’t cared about since Armstrong).
But it appears it was all lies; Armstrong is a fraud and a criminal.
To carry on such an elaborate lie for so long takes a particularly horrible villain, especially when using his name to prop up a foundation that can actually achieve some good.
We’ve seen similar defenses from other athletes, most notably fellow Texan Roger Clemens. But as we’ve seen recently, some ridiculous things can happen in the Lone Star State. Armstrong’s U-turn on doping is just as absurd as Texas cutting funding to Planned Parenthood — no one gains anything and people are only hurt by the decision.
We can’t put Armstrong next to the athletes who have committed crimes like assault and murder — he’s not a felon to that degree. But in terms of his transgressions in the realm of sports, he’s in a class of his own.
As much as I despise Barry Bonds and his blatant steroid use that led to the all-time home run record, at least the slugger has the sensibility to stay out of sight. Yeah, we all assume Bonds cheated, but at least he’s quietly disappeared instead of making a mockery of an entire sport like Armstrong has.
What does Armstrong have to gain by this admission? Very little, from what I can tell. Maybe he wants to get back into competing, but how can a man seriously consider himself a competitor when his entire life revolved around cheating? Armstrong is the type of guy who plays checkers with his kids and doesn’t let them win, who cheats at Words With Friends and who makes you play H-O-R-S-E until he is the victor.
What does Armstrong have to lose? A lot. Everyone he attacked while defending his name can come right back at him for everything he’s got, which is a lot because of the way he bamboozled his way to fame and fortune.
It makes you wonder, for a moment, if Armstrong is coming clean to clear his conscience and do the right thing. However, I wouldn’t believe that for a second.
We haven’t heard the confession to Oprah yet, so we can’t know what all he has admitted. Reports have indicated that he doesn’t give everything up, which is no shocker. Someone who makes such a scrupulous lie for more than a decade is unlikely to do anything but what is in his or her self interest. This confession is likely no different.
Armstrong is con artist and this may be a continuing scam, trying to offer a mea culpa in attempts to fool a forgiving nation.
Maybe we should’ve seen this coming with the way Armstrong ran his personal life. Divorcing his wife who stuck by him through cancer only to start dating Sheryl Crow as soon as the divorce was final ought to have been a warning sign that this guy is a creep. (Further proof: Armstrong dumped Crow three months into their engagement, around the time Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer.)
I don’t want to discount all the lives Armstrong has helped through cancer research or his formerly inspiring story of overcoming cancer to win the Tour de France seven times. Cancer is far more important than cycling or any other sport.
But from the sports viewpoint, Armstrong is as low as it gets.
In 2001 Armstrong and Nike teamed up for an anti-doping commercial in which he says “Everyone wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike.”
Maybe Armstrong should’ve gotten off his high horse a little earlier instead of flaunting himself as a clean savior. Now he’s only going to keep falling.