Beyond the confession, Armstrong seeks reinvention
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
WASHINGTON, Jan 18: Lance Armstrong didn´t just come clean to Oprah Winfrey about doping on Thursday. He also tried to reinvent himself.
Will the public accept his globally televised mea culpa after more than a decade of lies? Only time will tell. But judging from initial reaction on Twitter, he has a long way to go to convince people he regrets his actions.
The 41-year-old disgraced cyclist clearly had carefully rehearsed his answers as he acknowledged, after years of strident denials, that his victories had been fueled by banned performance-enhancing drugs.
"I was used to controlling everything in my life," Armstrong told Winfrey, television´s queen of talk, in his first interview since he was stripped of his record-setting seven Tour de France titles.
Armstrong described himself as a "bully" and an "arrogant prick," saying: "I tried to control the narrative... I will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people."
It was Winfrey, eager to land a blockbuster interview for her upstart OWN cable channel, who approached Armstrong after the US Anti-Doping Agency put him at the heart of cycling´s biggest doping conspiracy.
Their conversation was pre-recorded Monday at a hotel in his hometown Austin, Texas. The second half of the interview will be aired on Friday.
Armstrong turned up in a blue blazer, open-neck shirt and slightly worn Chelsea boots, and sat for much of the interview with one foot resting on his other knee. (Winfrey opted for a seafoam dress and oxblood heels.)
On his right wrist, he wore the iconic yellow armband of Livestrong, the cancer charity that he founded.
On the table was a glass of water with a straw that was close to full one minute, then close to empty, then full again -- evidence of the editing process.
Spliced into the program for the benefit of viewers not up to speed on doping were background segments including clips of some of Armstrong´s long string of public doping denials.
Behavioral analyst Joe Navarro, who during 25 years with the FBI assisted in the questioning of hundreds of suspected criminals, faulted Winfrey for not going hard on Armstrong to unearth precise details about the doping racket.
"A lot of people out there will think this is a good interview," said Navarro, author of "What Every Body is Saying." "It was a long interview... but no one should assume it was a forensic interview."
"By not getting into the details, you (the interviewee) are in a way letting other people fill in that (missing) information -- and you hope that somewhere along the line, someone will be forgiving," he told AFP.
In that instant court of public opinion called Twitter, where witty trending hashtags included #doprah, #LiveWrong and #LieStrong, the jurors of cyberspace turned thumbs down.
"I´ve watched enough. That was depressing. I´ve rarely seen such a soulless psychopath," tweeted @leighsales.
"If Lance Armstrong was trying to gain sympathy with this interview it´s not working," echoed @newyscruggs. "Damn sad day when #Oprah can´t even make him look good."
"It´s pretty clear the most powerful drug Lance Armstrong abused was narcissism," agreed @SeanGrandePBP.
But the Texan had his supporters as well, not least for his work for cancer survivors through the Livestrong charity he founded in 1997 after his own brush with testicular cancer.
"The fact the he lied and brought people down won´t change the fact HE helped people with cancer," tweeted one fan going by the handle @hoooligan. "No matter what, I respect. #lancearmstrong"
Key quotes from Lance Armstrong interview
LOS ANGELES: Key quotes from Lance Armstrong´s first interview as a banned athlete, broadcast Thursday, in which he admitted to talk show host Oprah Winfrey that he used performance enhancing drugs:
"I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times."
"Certainly, I´m a flawed character. I am flawed, deeply flawed."
"I made my decisions. They´re my mistake. And I´m sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I´m sorry for that."
"My cocktail, so to speak, was only EPO, but not a lot, transfusions and testosterone."
"And I went in and I just looked up the definition of cheat.
"And the definition of cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe, you know, that they don´t have or that they -- you know, I didn´t do it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field."
"I was a bully in the sense that I tried to control the narrative and if I didn´t like what somebody said... I tried to control that and say that´s a lie, they´re liars."
"I didn´t invent the culture, but I didn´t try to stop the culture, and that´s my mistake and that´s what I have to be sorry for, and the sport is now paying the price because of that."
THE WRONGED WOMAN
On team-mate´s wife Betsy Andreu, who Armstrong smeared in a bid to silence her: "Well, let me clarify something. I did call her crazy. I did."
"The last time I crossed the line, that line, was 2005," -- Armstrong denies doping in his comeback Tour de France races in 2009 and 2010.
"I disrespected the rules, regardless of what anybody says about the generation. That was my choice."
"If there was a truth and reconciliation commission... and I´m invited, I´ll be the first man in the door."
On the US Department of Justice deciding last year not to pursue a case against him: "It´s hard to define victory, but I thought I was out of the woods. And those were some serious wolves."