Wednesday 26 October 2016

Matt McGeehan: Can we believe anything Lance Armstrong says?

Published 18/01/2013 | 10:39

LANCE Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey provoked as many questions as answers.

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The answers provoked more questions: can we believe anything Lance Armstrong says?

Other than the confession that he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his record run of seven Tour de France victories it felt like Armstrong was holding something back.

Over 13 years and more of denials, Armstrong has proven to be as good at lying as he is at riding a bike.

Even in confessing, as stony-faced and emotionless as he was throughout his period of defiance, he admitted he could not be trusted.

"I'm not the most believable guy in the world right now," said Armstrong, who was wearing a yellow Livestrong bracelet around his right wrist, an item which became synonymous with him and his cancer charity.

Why speak now? Armstrong replied that was a good question, but failed to provide a satisfactory answer.

He was adamant he did not dope during his comeback years in 2009, when he finished third in the Tour, and 2010. Evidence points to the contrary. Why?

He insisted cycling's world governing body the UCI was not complicit in a cover-up of a positive test at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland, yet a payment to a testing laboratory was requested and made by him. Why?

Oprah did not probe further. Why?

It was not surprising talk show host Oprah did not dig deeper. The interview was brokered over the festive season in Hawaii, where they both have homes. It was a little too friendly.

She had prepared as if she was sitting an exam. Too often as Armstrong answered another question came, allowing him to squirm free.

He appeared relaxed. Rehearsed. He smirked. And remorse was lacking.

It took seven minutes for him to say "sorry" and even then, it was about him, not his actions.

What is he sorry for? The fact he was caught?

He was remorseful when discussing his comeback. He wouldn't have been sitting in the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas, his home city, confessing to his myriad of misdemeanours, had he not returned to the sport in 2009. That was his downfall.

Doping, Armstrong insisted, was part and parcel of the sport during his era of dominance.

He said: "That's like saying we have to have air in our tyres or water in our bottles. It was part of the job."

He had looked up the definition of cheat in the dictionary - "to gain an unfair advantage over a rival or foe" - and believed he was not one. His "cocktail" was to level the playing field.

He justified using testosterone by the fact he lost a testicle to cancer.

He was not afraid of getting caught. Why?

This is a man who wields untold power. He reportedly has the telephone numbers of presidents of the United States stored on his mobile phone. His influence transcends sport. Was that why?

He described himself as a "jerk and humanitarian", "deeply flawed" and deserving of the pain of a confession.

Yet there was still an abdication of responsibility.

After his final Tour win in 2005 he hit out at those who did not believe in "miracles", of the cancer survivor turned serial winner of the toughest endurance race in sport.

He was embarrassed by that speech. It was "impossible" to live up to the fable, he said. The control freak lost control, but he was happy to allow the myth to perpetuate.

Now we have had the confession, we await the full ramifications and full answers. It is unlikely they will come from Armstrong.

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