The reviews are in, folks. Lance Armstrong apparently pulled off the superhuman feat of making himself look worse than ever last night during the first half of his Oprah rehab.
The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson argued that Lance did not comprehend, much less apologize for, the damage he inflicted on others.
Armstrong failed, despite Oprah’s best efforts, to convey any real understanding of the most troubling complaints against him—the ones involving other people: that he induced, bullied, and required other riders to dope along with him; and that he set out to destroy people who told the truth about him.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, John Kador was irked that Armstrong didn’t properly say “I’m sorry.”
For the most part, what Armstrong offered Thursday night was a more or less contrite explanation of his difficulties, than a heartfelt public apology. He displayed some self-awareness, expressed considerable regret, and agreed that he acted like a bully, but Armstrong used specific remorse language only once.
Over at Slate, William Saletan maintains that Armstrong flat-out lied, contradicting accusations in the USADA report that he pressured teammates into doping.
That seems to be the game plan Armstrong brought to this interview. Downplay your power over others. Deny issuing explicit orders to dope. Convert any such story into a matter of setting a poor example. Take responsibility for yourself, but suggest that others—those who claim you pressured them—must do the same. Recast your threats, retributions, and demands for silence as products of a hard life. Reduce your sins of coercion to a sin of deceit.
Across the pond, where people actually follow cycling, the Daily Mirror accused Lance of “boast[ing] about what a great liar he was and justify[ing] doping in sport as being no different to putting air in his tyres.”
And at New York magazine, Margaret Hartmann and Caroline Shin get on Lance’s case for not seeming to mean it.
More troublingly, he seemed somewhat removed from his own story, appeared to have trouble empathizing with those he lied to, and admitted to feeling no moral compunctions when he was still doping.
One question lingers for me after reading all this: Why are we so desperate for him to feel moral compunctions at all? Shouldn’t we make judgments about the guy based on what he did, rather than what he thinks about what he did?