Monday, January 14, 2013

Is Lance Armstrong really sorry?

(Updated, 12:57 p.m.) Lance Armstrong sits down today with Oprah Winfrey for an interview to be broadcast Thursday. His representatives are hinting at a confession, and Armstrong told a reporter Saturday that he'll candidly answer Oprah's questions. But if you're expecting a full, tearful, annotated doping disclosure, you're bound to be disappointed. Grand public admissions of wrongdoing are a lot like the private kind, which is to say situational. People tend to confess to only as much as they think they have to. (See John Edwards.)

So how much do we need Lance to admit? It's a legitimate question. The point of the whole Oprah confessional is that Armstrong needs something from us in return - sympathy, support, or at least some form of public acceptance to rebuild on. That won't happen unless we think he's actually sorry. And the bar, for most of us, is high.

The bar is also about more than doping. Yes, Armstrong cheated, and because that cheating was so spectacular - and so spectacularly denied - there will be a satisfaction in hearing from his mouth what we've suspected all along. But the damage Armstrong did went beyond stealing the title of his sport's biggest event. It involved protecting those lies with brutal threats and attacks on those who dared dent the Armstrong brand.

Here's the confession I want to hear: Is he sorry for trying to destroy the teammates, journalists and others who talked about the doping he's now ready to admit? Will he mention their names publicly and apologize? Has he contacted them? Fair questions for Oprah to ask. (Let's hope for at least half the outrage she famously had for "A Million Little Pieces" author James Frey.)

(Update, 12:57 p.m.: The Washington Post is reporting that in advance of the Oprah interview, Armstrong called members of the cycling community to apologize for lying to them. The Post isn't specific about who received the calls, but they seem to be colleagues, not critics.)

If Armstrong hopes to compete again in marathons and triathlons, his confession eventually will have to come with details. Doping officials want the public to hear all the ways they were right about Lance, plus they can better catch the next guy if they learn how they were fooled by the best cheater ever. But for that public to believe that Lance is actually sorry, he needs to begin with the hardest kind of contrition - an apology to the people who wanted to ruin him. In the end, they were right.  Peter St. Onge


blockhead said...

This has nothing to do with Armstrong's guilt or innocence per se. However, there's a story begging to be written.

If he's innocent, fine, miracles happen. But if he isn't, medically, what can we learn about the drugs, medications or methods he used that were illegal in the sports arena, but might hold fantastic promise for cancer sufferers all over the world? There's no question Armstrong was near death, and yet, he came back to record unprecedented athletic achievements. If it were the result of doping, chemicals, drugs and so on, can those lessons be applied to everyday, non-celebrity cancer sufferers?

tarhoosier said...

He is not looking for confession. He is expecting forgiveness, which is why he chose Oprah. Will he speak to anyone else after Oprah and face any tough questions from anyone? I doubt it. He still believes he was right to do what he did. If one reveals only what is already known then the speech is to an audience of one.

Archiguy said...

This "confession" is entirely self-serving. He wants to compete in other athletic contests and he wants the LiveStrong Foundation to avoid being tarnished along with him.

But it's more than just his personal cheating - a lot of cyclists of that era did the same thing. He essentially engineered an entire doping program for the U.S. Cycling Team and threatened anyone who might have dared defy him or expose him. He called them liars and threatened to ruin them. He's a genuine bad guy, no matter how much his cancer foundation has accomplished.

Cheryl Evans said...

Lance Armstrong is truly sorry....sorry he got caught!