'I want you to know it's true'


On the second night of answering Oprah Winfrey's questions about his doping scandal, Lance Armstrong, the once invincible and defiant cyclist, finally cracked.

He choked up not when he described the moment his charity, Livestrong, asked him to step down from the board, and not when he talked about the possibility of his never again competing as a professional athlete.

It came when he talked about his 13-year-old son, Luke.

The emotion that he lacked during part one of the interview, which was broadcast Thursday, came a day later when he described how he told Luke about his doping. That talk happened last month over the holidays, Armstrong said as he fought back tears.

"I said, listen, there's been a lot of questions about your dad, my career, whether I doped or did not dope, and I've always denied, I've always been ruthless and defiant about that, which is probably why you trusted me, which makes it even sicker,"

Armstrong said he told his son, the oldest of his five children. "I want you to know it's true."

Last night Winfrey concluded her two-day broadcast of interviews that revealed more emotion from Armstrong than had been seen since he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last fall.

As expected, Winfrey avoided asking questions that would have delved into the details of Armstrong's doping, like where he obtained his drugs and who helped him use them. 

In the second part of the interview, she asked him whether there was anybody who knew everything about his doping. When he said yes, she neglected to ask him to name those people.

At times, the interview seemed more like a therapy session than an inquisition, with Armstrong's admitting that he was narcissistic and had been in therapy - and that he should be in therapy regularly because his life is so complicated.

In the end, the interviews most likely accomplished what Armstrong had hoped: They were the vehicle through which he came clean to the public about the doping he had kept secret for more than a decade. But they were just the first step to his possible redemption.

Last night Armstrong appeared more contrite than he had during the portion of the interview that was shown the day before, yet he still insisted that he was clean when he made his comeback to cycling in 2009 after a brief retirement, an assertion the US Anti-Doping Agency has said is untrue.

He also implied that his lifetime ban from all Olympic sports was unfair because some of his former teammates who testified about their doping and the doping on Armstrong's teams had received only six-month bans.

Whatever its impact on the broader public, the first of his two nights of televised confession appeared to have little positive effect on the cycling and anti-doping communities. 

Members of both groups faulted Armstrong for the vagueness of his confession, particularly around sensitive matters, and for his lack of an apology, particularly to people he had attacked for telling the truth in the past. Many characterized the interview as being more self-serving than revelatory.

"He spoke to a talk-show host," David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said from Montreal last night. “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?” Mr Howman said several of Armstrong's statements were not accurate, adding that if Armstrong was serious about clearing the air, he needed to testify under oath and face cross-examination.

By doing that, Armstrong could possibly help the anti-doping agency build cases against people higher up than Armstrong in the sport.

But so far, Mr Howman has not heard from Armstrong. Although Armstrong's representatives frequently contacted Mr Howman when Armstrong was still racing, they have not communicated with WADA since the US Anti-Doping Agency found that Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs and techniques, Mr Howman said. 

"Nothing we've seen indicates that USADA got it wrong and that the lifetime ban should be reversed," he said.

Richard Pound, the founding chairman of WADA and a member of the International Olympic Committee, also said he was unmoved by Armstrong's televised mea culpa.

"If what he's looking for is some kind of reconstruction of his image, instead of providing entertainment with Oprah Winfrey, he's got a long way to go," Pound said from his Montreal office.

Armstrong admitted to Winfrey last night that he had a long way to go in winning back the public's trust. He said he understood that people have recently turned on him because they felt angry and betrayed. 

"I lied to you and I'm sorry," he said before acknowledging that he might have lost many of his supporters for good. "I am committed to spending as long as I have to make amends, knowing full well that I won't get very many back."

For Armstrong, the lowest point of his doping scandal came last fall, when his charity asked him to step down and cut all ties. He said that "hurt like hell." Another difficult part of the scandal, he said, was facing the fact that he may never compete in any sporting events that are sanctioned by organizations that follow the World Anti-Doping Code.

That means he might never be able to run in the Chicago Marathon or even a 10k in his hometown, or in the Ironman triathlons he had hoped would be his post-cycling athletic endeavours.

"If you're asking me if I want to compete again?" he said to Winfrey. "The answer's hell yes."

New York Times

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