X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Coffee House

Lance Armstrong had an easy ride with Oprah

18 January 2013

3:41 PM

18 January 2013

3:41 PM

Lance Armstrong could yet manage to emerge a hero. ‘What’s the crime?’ is all he needs to ask. ‘Who died?’ On one side, a lot of people interested in the somewhat esoteric topic of who can make a bicycle go fastest were conned. On the other, more than half a billion dollars raised to fight cancer. Which is more important?

‘Oprah, I cheated. I cheated to beat a field full of cheats. You got me. But I used my profile to fund research into finding a cure for the greatest killer of our time. If I wasn’t winning, that wouldn’t have happened. You do the math.’

Why didn’t he just say that?

Again and again, Oprah asked him about the lies, seemingly amazed that anyone would ever cling to an untruth. Armstrong, with a winning forbearance, tried to explain. He even went so far as calling himself an ‘arrogant prick’.

Why didn’t he just give the obvious, and truthful, answer? ‘Oprah, when you start lying you have to keep lying. Everyone knows that. Have you read no Shakespeare? I wove a tangled web.’

He didn’t even point out that anyone – and there millions of them – who believes he is solely responsible for doping in cycling wilfully misses the point. It may be clean, or cleaner, now, but top-level endurance cycling has a history of endemic doping that goes back to the 1950s. They were all at it. They have always all been at it.

[Alt-Text]


I am not for a moment suggesting that Armstrong is any type of hero. He is a man who has accumulated vast wealth by shamelessly and remorselessly cheating, and for a decade bullied anyone who said otherwise into submission. But last night’s interview – the first instalment of his time in the chair across from Winfrey – was surely a chance for him to plead some sort of perspective.

In that respect, it was a missed opportunity. And as much as it is possible to admire him for doing the interview at all, it was notable that he did not yet seem prepared to come completely clean.

He ducked elaborating on previous sworn testimony in which he denied, on his deathbed, telling a doctor that he had swallowed an illegal pharmacy. And he flatly denied a $100,000 donation to doping police the UCI was a kickback or a bribe.

Admitting either of these allegations was true – perjury or bribery – would lead to prison. The donation, then, was presumably made only to ensure the UCI could go on fighting the good fight. And he didn’t want to talk about the sworn testimony. Winfrey didn’t push him on either topic.

He was also reticent on his relationship with evil genius Dr Ferrari, he of the undetectable super stimulants, professing only to the opinion that Ferrari is a ‘good man’. Winfrey let him get away with it, as she did his laughable contention that he didn’t realise how big his profile was at the height of his fame.

The interview was frustrating, not because Oprah didn’t ask the right questions. She generally did. It was frustrating because we were not seeing the real Armstrong, the King Kong alpha male, the super-competitor, the street fighter. ‘You come into my territory, I’ll fight you,’ he said at one point. But Oprah didn’t come into his territory. Rather, she asked what it was like in there. She let him remain in control.

The only way to see the true Armstrong, the snarling, bug-eyed, win-at-all-costs sociopath, would have been to step boldly into his domain and, once there, to go toe-to-toe.

‘You’re a megalomaniacal cheat who would sell his own mother if it meant winning.’ ‘You don’t even understand what sport is.’ ‘You are a psychopath, aren’t you?’ These would have been instructive conversation starters, but that is not Winfrey’s style. Armstrong knew it and that is why she was chosen for his first interview.

Armstrong is a born fighter – he told Winfrey that at the off – but we didn’t see it. As he sat in his seat, crossing and uncrossing his legs, scratching his head, straining to keep vast reserves of nervous energy in check, it was hard not to feel that minimal prodding would have unleashed the real man in that suit.

Damian Reilly is a freelance journalist based in London. 

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close