Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lance At A (Pretty Unflattering) Glance

     Oprah Winfrey took on Lance Armstrong in all his supposed candor in a two part Interview last night and the night prior. There is no question that if any reporter was going to get him to open up about his (now old news) "most scandalously pulled off" doping scheme it was Miss Winfrey. Unnecessary to state but nonetheless relevant in this context, she is the reigning queen of posing the most penetrating, personal, difficult questions in a manner that seemingly makes those on the chair across from her unafraid to answer. So after hearing via every possible news outlet that she would be doing the long awaited broadcast, my hopes were high. What exactly I hoped for from the interview I'm not 100% certain I can accurately capture in words, however it was certainly not what I saw over the past two nights.
     Having never been a real Lance fan nor hater one way or the other, I was neither hoping for yet another public humiliation nor a "new Lance" to come forth. And, as it turns out,  neither of these scenarios took place. What I, perhaps presumptuously, assumed would occur would have been the public getting to see, feel and believe a real human sense of remorse from a man who lied to himself, his family, the sports industry and the public for years. While at times during the 2.5 hours it seemed like he was going to convey true apologetic remorse, these times were few and far between. During the majority of the chair to chair confession of sorts, I got the unmistakable sense that at the core of the situation, yes Lance was sorry...sorry he got caught. 
    Not surprisingly, Miss Winfrey's questions spanned a broad range of topics warranting diverse genres of answers. She commenced the interview with the series or yes or no questions to which the the public has wanted to hear truthful answers from Lance directly since 2005 when his doping controversy first reared its head courtesy of his former teammate. He answered this painstaking series of "Did you ever use illegal banned substances while competing in the Tour de France? Have you ever had blood transfusions leading up to a race?" with honest yeses to each and every incriminating question. But although this would have been a dramatic confession, the answers were already known and I therefore grant him no credit for his "honesty" in that vein. Perhaps had he voluntarily come out with the truth and done this interview four years ago, I would grant him a few ounces more of credit but no. Not now. From the yes/no questions, Oprah proceeded the inquisition, posing questions ranging from the process of injecting EPO, its secret disposal, the repertoire of scheduling doping sessions so as to not fail drug tests all the way to the other emotional end of the spectrum: his emotions towards the public outage and how he has broached the issue with his five young children. Watching Lance discuss the process of doping, it almost seemed to me at times that in a way, he missed it. Missed the whole competitive process of gearing up, training, "putting air in his tires" otherwise known to the public as using banned drugs, and self-proclaimed by him as the most important thing in the world, winning.  I sensed a tangible longing in his eyes and tone of voice when speaking of his Tours de wherever and my sense was substantiated when Lance candidly answered that yes, he would like to compete again and that he lived for the sport of cycling. 
     I would be a heartless person if I sat here saying there weren't moments when I believed Armstrong's sorrowful emotions, for instance when speaking about his son. He spoke of an experience in which his thirteen year old son naively defended his father to his undoubtedly cruel teenage peers, asserting that his father was innocent and did nothing wrong. I don't believe Lance's trembling lip and much too long pauses before answering were fabricated -- upon seeing the effect his irresponsible careless actions had on his children, he was presumably visibly sorry. 
     Since I cannot depict in writing the answer and emotional takeaway of each question posed to him by Miss Winfrey, from an overall evaluation stance, Lance did himself no favors with this interview. When the final question came to light (predicted by me early on) "Do you feel remorse?", he appeared, to me, as nothing more than a little boy upset for having gotten sent to his room. There is no question that Lance now wishes he could turn back the clock on his untruthful, continuously illegal actions over the past decade. What there is question about is his preference on having ever gotten caught or not. And I believe that preference to be no. "Do you think you would have gotten caught had you not made your come back in 2009?" Oprah posed. "It is impossible to say one way or the other but the chances are much less likely" was his answer. And this answer, to me, says it all. Were he able to turn back time, he would have maintained his 2007 retirement, given up his oh-so-shameful third place in the 2009 Tour, kept his seven Tour de France titles, and never gotten caught for doping. 
     In his words, he has "a long way still to go" in learning and accepting his now unqualified-to-compete fate. And although I would not call his 150 minute confession a great one, I hope that over the course of the next several years and many therapy sessions, he is able to more fully grasp the wrongdoing he exhibited and take real responsibility for it. Here's to hoping, Lance, you will be able to reclaim your morals, earn back a trace of trust, and once again, Live Strong.

For full coverage of the interview please refer here:

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