Self-confessed cycling cheat may have dug a deeper hole for himself
AFTER the confession, the lawsuits. Lance Armstrong's extended appearance on the Oprah Winfrey network, in which the man stripped of seven Tour de France wins finally admitted to doping, has opened him up to several multimillion-dollar legal challenges.
According to reports, the US government may join a "whistleblower" lawsuit launched by Armstrong's former colleague, Floyd Landis, on the grounds that Armstrong, while riding for the US Postal Service team, defrauded the American taxpayer.
The Sunday Times is hoping to claw back nearly £1m (€1.2m) in damages and costs that Armstrong was awarded after he sued it over allegations of doping.
A Texas-based sports-marketing firm is also suing Armstrong in an attempt to get back millions of dollars it paid him in bonuses.
Meanwhile, the International Cycling Union is urging Armstrong to pay back his prize money.
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Even Australian government officials are reportedly mulling over going to the courts to get back hefty fees paid for appearances in the country from 2009 to 2011.
Finally, and perhaps most seriously, Armstrong's confession has opened up the prospect that he might be prosecuted for perjury after previously testifying under oath that he had not taken drugs.
In seeking public rehabilitation and a second chance to compete, Armstrong may have dug himself into a deeper hole than he had imagined.
His emotional 'mea culpa' last week was an audacious move. But the man who beat cancer and regularly – with illegal help – triumphed over any rival on his bike seems to have failed to beat his toughest opponent: public opinion.
The hours of dialogue with Winfrey, which culminated in a choked-up moment on Friday night as he discussed the impact of his cheating on his family, appear to have failed to give Armstrong the redemption that he craves.
His confession, which many believe is aimed at reducing his ban from competitive sports and allowing him to take part in triathlons, has been greeted with dismay, criticism and derision.
"Armstrong said he was sorry for all the years of lying, but he sounded like he was reading a shopping list," retorted Howard Kurtz, the media critic for cable news TV station CNN.
Part of the problem was that Armstrong was rowing back on so much previous behaviour and years of aggressive lambasting of reporters, officials and team-mates who had claimed he was doping.
"I don't forgive Lance Armstrong, who lied to me in two interviews. And I suspect most of America won't, either," Kurtz wrote – and that was a common sentiment.
Many sports stars condemned the former hero, saying his actions – in both taking drugs and then denying it for so many years – had damaged the image of sports far beyond cycling.
"I guess all I needed to see was the first few minutes [of the interview] and then I knew what was the deal, and the rest I don't really care," tennis player Roger Federer told reporters at the Australian Open. "I'm an active athlete right now and it's not fun times really to be in sports to a degree."
Anti-doping officials were equally unimpressed. If Armstrong's aim was to reduce his ban, then it appears to have failed.
"He spoke to a talk-show host. I don't think any of it amounted to assistance to the anti-doping community, let alone substantial assistance. You bundle it all up and say, 'So what?'," said David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
On Friday night, Armstrong appeared more emotional in his talk with Winfrey than in the first interview.
Winfrey is renowned for being a virtual therapist to the public ordeals of disgraced celebrities, often bringing them to tears.
Armstrong, who throughout last week had appeared unnervingly controlled, did not shed a tear but he did appear to choke up.
"I saw my son defending me and saying, 'That's not true. What you're saying about my dad is not true.' That's when I knew I had to tell him," Armstrong said.
The cyclist paused, lip trembling, and looked away as he composed himself.