Lance Armstrong Doesn’t Deserve Oprah’s Easy Redemption
Thursday, America will get to see Lance Armstrong take the clichéd first step on the road to what he hopes is redemption in the eyes of the country’s sporting public. He will take to the couch with Oprah Winfrey, make a marginal admission of guilt regarding his years-long abuse of performance-enhancing drugs, probably shed a tear or two and then expect to receive a measure of forgiveness.
Here’s hoping we dismiss his efforts with the definitiveness of a stick jammed into the spokes of a speeding bicycle’s front tire. After his vitriolic comments toward anyone who suspected him of juicing, malevolent treatment of those in the anti-doping community, bullying of teammates and others in cycling and general arrogance, Armstrong does not deserve an easy out. He’ll follow the formula of submitting to Oprah’s made-for-TV Interrogation Lite, write another book, this time “detailing” his sins and expressing remorse, and then hope to emerge as a new man.
Don’t let it happen.
This is not someone who has been laid low by his sins and understands the damage he has done. As recently as last June, Armstrong was attacking those who pursued the truth about him. He repeated his familiar refrains, calling attempts to prove his guilt a “witch hunt” and accusing anyone who dared think he was building his career through a carefully constructed pyramid of lies and deceit of being “motivated by spite.”
Now that Armstrong is in the pot of boiling water, ready to be cooked and served up, it would be wrong for anyone to offer him an escape. Armstrong wants to compete in triathlons and other competitions, and he has been banned from that opportunity. He wants to regain his American hero status and propagate the myth that he was able to emerge from cancer’s deathly clutches to achieve greatness completely due to his own hard work and talent. He wants to be loved again. We can’t let that happen, at least not by letting him cop to a few sins on national TV and then receive universal absolution.
If Armstrong wants to get clear of this, he has years of work to do. He must express remorse for the teammates’ and competitors’ lives he haunted as he chased immortality at all costs. He must stand in front of the anti-doping community as a humbled man and issue real apologies for not only using the juice but also lying so emphatically about it. He must show contrition to those he accused of being jealous and prejudiced against him.
Armstrong must also offer a sincere and prolonged apology to the media, many of whom he excoriated throughout his cycling career for having the temerity to suggest that the best performer in the dirtiest sport on the planet might just be getting a little artificial assistance.
That all can’t be accomplished by sitting down with Oprah and “baring his soul.” In many ways, Armstrong makes BALCO Bonds look like he was popping Chocks. His drug abuse was highly calculated, extremely well managed and unbelievably effective. His cover-up efforts involved dozens of people, and woe to those who got in his way.
Worse, Armstrong hid behind his Livestrong efforts. There can be no denying the organization’s impact. It has raised millions for cancer research, and that is not to be minimized. But Armstrong was able to build an army of supporters who identified him with Livestrong and had no ability to believe that someone who had started a movement that did so much good was capable of such deceit. It made it hard for those chasing the truth about him to fight past the Livestrong Foundation’s positive message and take down the cyclist whose fortune was built by breaking the rules.
Now that Armstrong is ready to end his shameless crusade against all those who were correct about his tactics, the sports world cannot make it easy for him. This is not a man who is interested in coming clean because it’s the right thing to do. He wants to preserve his image, continue competing and get the U.S. and world Anti-Doping Agencies off his case. Don’t stand for this contrived act of contrition.
And shame on Oprah for participating in this charade in the name of ratings. By helping Armstrong launder his image on her network, Ms. Television is enabling him to take a huge shortcut to redemption. It was ridiculously easy to predict this was a step Armstrong would try to take. It was not mandatory, however, that Oprah take part in the travesty, much less facilitate it.
Please, America, don’t fall for this phony remorse. See it for what it really is: A disgraced athlete’s trying to sanitize his image in order to hop back on the gravy train. Armstrong spent more than a decade haranguing and harassing those who dared question his methods. It is dead wrong for him to attempt to undo it with one melodramatic TV interview.
And worse for any of you to buy this steaming load of crap.
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