As acts of contrition go, Lance Armstrong’s failed to meet the test of penitent — just as he failed to meet the test of honest American hero.
Armstrong, who enjoyed global fame as cyclist extraordinaire — bolstered by his seven Tour de France wins — has turned out to be nothing more than a liar who played on the goodwill of an adoring public.
Not once, not twice, but numerous times did he categorically deny — often looking directly into the television camera — that he took performance enhancement drugs.
His indignation could be summed up thus: How dare anyone question my God-given abilities?
But last Thursday night, in a 90-minute conversation with television star Oprah Winfrey on her OWN cable network, he confessed. He said he started doping in mid-1990s, using the blood booster EPO, testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone. He also said he engaged in outlawed blood doping and transfusions.
There had been reports just days before the interview aired that Armstrong, who became a millionaire through his endorsements that came pouring in as his cycling victories mounted, had finally admitted to cheating.
His story also took on a humanitarian flair when after successfully battled testicular cancer he formed a non-profit cancer awareness organization called Livestrong, and returned to competitive racing.
It was truly a story of America. Winning against all odds; endurance in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges; and, the humanity.
But, it was all built on a lie. For that, Armstrong deserves no forgiveness — not from the hundreds of thousands of adoring fans, and certainly not from the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has stripped him of all his Tour de France titles and banned him from competition for life.
The bronze medal he won in the 2000 Olympics has also been taken away from him.
But it is the ban from cycling that prompted Armstrong to make a public confession and throw himself at the mercy of the anti-doping organization.
He wants the ban reduced to eight years, which would enable him to compete in triathlon in 2020. He will be 49 years old.
John Fahey, president of the Anti-Doping Agency, wasn’t impressed with the act of contrition and has made it clear Armstrong will have to do a lot more before his bid to reduce the lifetime ban would even be revisited.
The agency wants names, dates and places to determine the extent of the doping regimen. In the two-part interview with Oprah, Armstrong left little doubt that he wasn’t the only one enhancing his performance with drugs. But when the television host pressed him about other competitors who may have sought an unfair advantage through the use of banned substances, he replied, “I don’t want to accuse anybody.”
That answer will not fly with the anti-doping agency. It wants to get to the bottom of this sordid affair, and only someone like Armstrong can shed the proper light on all aspects of the illegal activities.
“We’re left wanting more,” Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme told the Associated Press. “He couldn’t have done it alone. We have to know who in his entourage helped him to do this.”
Perhaps it’s the way Armstrong looks, or simply his personality, but during the interview with Oprah he came across as smug. He seemed to saying to us, “You should be grateful that I’m even confessing.”
We aren’t. He must do a lot more confessing and soul-searching before we think he should be permitted to ride again.