Analysis: Questions answered and unanswered on night 1 with Oprah
BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — The first part of Oprah Winfrey’s groundbreaking interview with Lance Armstrong aired Thursday night to mixed reaction. Winfrey came out swinging, and exceeded expectations in her tough line of questioning, and though Armstrong answered some questions, he avoided others, and his answers, at times, seemed far from complete, or even truthful. Below we analyze both — questions answered and unanswered ahead of Friday night’s airing of part two.
Was he believable?
Yes and no. With Winfrey opening on five tough “yes or no” doping questions from the start, Armstrong initially appeared ready to be transparent, admitting to all forms of doping during her rapid-fire opening round of questions. However, early on he claimed he hadn’t read Tyler Hamilton’s book, “The Secret Race,” which is impossible to believe. Armstrong was a world-class liar for 15 years. Not only has Armstrong read Hamilton’s book, every one of his lawyers has as well. Bet on it.
What was Armstrong’s most believable statement?
“The story is so bad, and so toxic, and a lot of it is true.” An understatement.
What was Armstrong’s least believable statement?
That he hadn’t read Hamilton’s book was the most unbelievable; however, his claim that he had not doped during his 2009 and 2010 comeback was a much bigger unbelievable claim.
“The last time I crossed ‘that line’ was in 2005,” Armstrong said, referring to his seventh and last Tour de France win.
However, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has claimed that his biological passport data from those years was “fully consistent with blood doping,” something Australian anti-doping scientist Michael Ashenden also stated last year.
And during the 2009 Tour, blood-doping kits were found in a search of medical equipment from Armstrong’s Astana team, revealing seven different genetic profiles. If Armstrong is lying about his comeback, it has everything to do his need to outlast the statute of limitations, which is eight years for USADA, conveniently the same amount of time between now and his last Tour win. It remains to be seen whether the criminal statute of limitations has elapsed, but the Department of Justice, reportedly in negotiations with Armstrong over testimony and restitution, could still join in the federal whistleblower lawsuit filed by former teammate Floyd Landis. It had not done so before the interview aired on Thursday.
What drugs did Armstrong admit to having used?
He admitted to having used EPO, testosterone, cortisone, human growth hormone and having taken blood transfusions.
“I viewed it as very simple,” he said. “I mean, you had things that were oxygen-boosting drugs, for lack of a better word, or a way to describe it, that were incredibly beneficial for endurance sports, whether it’s cycling, or running, or whatever. And that’s all you needed. My cocktail, so to speak, was EPO, but not a lot, transfusions and testosterone — which, in a weird way, I almost justified, because of my history, obviously, with having testicular cancer and losing, I thought, ‘surely, I’m running low.’”
What was his most awkward statement?
When asked about Betsy Andreu, Armstrong awkwardly said that when speaking with her earlier this week, he told her, “Listen, I called you crazy. I called you a bitch, I called you all these things, but I never called you fat.”
Did he seem contrite?
Not really. Though he acknowledged his wrongdoing, his demeanor was stoic, matter of fact. Though he admitted to being “deeply flawed,” and said he deserved to pay the price for his sins, he never broke down; he never cried. It was a confession that was largely absent of remorse. Midway through, he said, “When I say that there are people that will hear this and will never forgive me, I understand that. I do.” When asked if he felt his doping had been “wrong,” he answered, “No. Scary.” Asked if he felt “bad” about it, his answer was, “No. Even scarier.” Asked if he felt he had been “cheating,” he answered, “No. The scariest.”
Why did he refuse to answer the question about the 1996 Indiana hospital room incident?
In what was the most frustrating, and disappointing, moment of Thursday night’s interview, Armstrong refused to speak to the infamous Indiana hospital incident from 1996, when he allegedly told doctors, in front of family and friends, that he had taken doping products prior to his diagnosis for testicular cancer. Betsy and Frankie Andreu testified under oath at an arbitration hearing between Armstrong and SCA Promotions in 2006 that he had admitted to doping; Armstrong testified that he had not.
When asked by Winfrey if Andreu had told the truth, Armstrong answered, “I’m not going to take that on. I’m laying down on that one.” Pressed further, he would only say, “I’m just not … I’m going to put that one down. She asked me, and I asked her not to talk about it.”
Immediately following Winfrey’s show, Andreu appeared on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” and was livid that he had refused to address the question — refused to validate her version of the story after a decade of calling her a liar.
“I’m really disappointed,” Andreu said. “You owed it to me, Lance, and you dropped the ball. After what you’ve done to me, what you’ve done to my family, and you couldn’t own up to it. And now we’re supposed to believe you? You have one chance at the truth. This is it.
“If he’s not going to tell the truth. If he can’t say, ‘Yes, the hospital room happened,’ then how are we to believe everything else that he’s saying? We’re already questioning him… If it didn’t happen, just say it didn’t happen. But he won’t do it, because it did happen.”
What did Armstrong reveal about the UCI?
Less than some had expected. Asked whether he’d been offered protection by the UCI, Armstrong said no — twice saying he was “not a fan of the UCI.” He refuted claims that he had ever tested positive at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland, and said that he only donated money to the UCI because “they asked me to.”
“There was no deal — this is impossible for me to answer this question and have anybody believe it — it was not in exchange for any cover-up,” Armstrong said. “And, again, I am not a fan of the UCI. I have every incentive to sit here and tell you, ‘yes, that’s right, they’re all crooked.’ Are there things that were a little shady? Yes. That was not one. They called and said they didn’t have a lot of money. I was retired. I had money. They said, ‘would you consider a donation?’ And I said sure.”
This, also, stood as one of the least plausible answers of part 1, largely because UCI president Pat McQuaid has said that Armstrong made two payments to the governing body: one for $25,000 in 2002 and one for $100,000, via his Capital Sports and Entertainment company, in 2005. Armstrong retired in 2005 following the Tour de France. Something doesn’t add up here.
Will he testify before USADA or WADA?
Many, including Andreu, Jonathan Vaughters, and USADA CEO Travis Tygart, have called Armstrong’s televised confession a first step, but added that if he truly wants to make an impact, he must testify, under oath, before either the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency or the World Anti-Doping Agency. Asked by Winfrey if he would cooperate with USADA, Armstrong was tentative, saying, “Look, I love cycling. And I know people will see me as someone who has disrespected the sport, the color yellow, the jersey… And I disrespected the rules, regardless of what anybody says about the generation, that was my choice. But if we can, and I stand on no moral platform here, it’s certainly not my place to say, ‘Hey, guys, let’s clean up cycling.’ If there was an effort to, if there was a truth and reconciliation commission, again, I can’t call for that. I’ve got no cred. If they have it, and I’m invited, I’ll be the first man at the door.”
However, in order for Armstrong to lessen his lifetime ban, to compete again, and to truly earn back insiders’ respect, if it is even possible, he’ll have to name names, explain methods, and turn over those who aided and abetted his well-orchestrated doping campaign — if not to Winfrey, then to the sport’s anti-doping authorities.