In 2003, Democratic US senator Al Franken wrote a book about a series of high profiled, American hypocrites entitled, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” It is time for Al to add a chapter on Lance Armstrong, who may just be the biggest hypocrite of them all.
“I am a flawed humanitarian,” he told Oprah last Thursday, which gives some idea of how divorced from reality the man is.
In this carefully stage-managed interview, Lance - like all the other trapped celebrities who have used Winfrey as a springboard back into society - tried his hand at impersonating sincerity. As the D’Unbelievables might put it, “It doesn’t suit you Lance, it doesn’t suit you.”
When the Eagles sang, “You can’t hide your lyin eyes and your smile is a thin disguise” they could have been referring to the junkie cyclist. Armstrong is as cold blooded a human being as I have seen and in almost a quarter of a century at the criminal bar I have seen plenty.
Sky Sports News retained a body language expert called Judy James to analyse his performance. She concluded that he, “Showed no signals of humility” and “negligible amounts of emotion.” She noted the glaring absence of regret and his “arrogant” demeanour. This was not a man troubled in the slightest by guilt and remorse. He admitted only what he had to and continued to deny anything that hasn’t (yet) been categorically proven.
He flatly denied the USADA conclusion that he was at the centre of the most sophisticated doping conspiracy in the history of sport, claiming merely that he was “only doing what everyone else was”. He also denied issuing a “direct order” to members of his team that they start doping. He said he had never bribed The World Cycling Authority (UCI) to conceal positive tests, sincerely explaining that the $145,000 he paid to them during his drug fuelled era of domination was instead a “donation to assist them in the fight against drugs.” Just think about that one for a second…
Tory politician Jonathan Aitken, himself a breath-taking hypocrite, famously stood on the steps of the Royal Courts in London and said he would defend himself against allegations of corruption in office with “the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of fair play.” He sued for libel, lost and by 1999 had been convicted of perjury and was serving an 18 month prison sentence.
Lance meanwhile bullied his way to world domination with the simple sword of EPO and the trusty shield of cancer. The most nauseating aspect of the whole scandal was his formation of a charity for cancer to silence and destroy his critics. Charity work, alongside finding Jesus, is a time-honoured tactic used by folks like Al Capone to confuse public opinion. In 1999, the year he recovered from cancer to win his first fairytale victory in the Tour de France, he stood on the podium and said, “I hope it sends out a fantastic message to all survivors around the world. We can return to what we were before – and even better.”
By 2005, when the journalists at L’Equipe magazine were openly accusing him of doping, he told Larry King in another carefully stage-managed interview: “If you consider my situation: a guy who comes back from arguably, you know, a death sentence, why would I then enter into a sport and dope myself up and risk my life again? That’s crazy. I would never do that. No. No way.”
If cancer was the force-field he used to defend his fraud, intimidation and litigation were his chosen weapons of attack. He mounted such a savage publicity campaign against ex-team mate and whistle-blower, Tyler Hamilton, that a defence fund was set up by Hamilton’s supporters called “Believe Tyler”. When Hamilton claimed last year in his autobiography that Armstrong’s miraculous success after his recovery from cancer was based solely on systematic doping, Armstrong said, “If Hamilton were truly serious about righting ancient wrongs, he would devote all proceeds from his book sales to repaying all his trusting supporters who he stole from in his fraudulent ‘Believe Tyler’ campaign.”
Betsy Andrieu, wife of Frankie, a former team mate who blew the whistle on Armstrong and whose career was promptly destroyed by the Texan, was herself subjected to serious and sustained attacks.
“Did you call Betsy a fat, crazy bitch?” asked Oprah.
“I called her crazy and a bitch. I did not call that woman fat.”
It was an answer that immediately reminded me of Bill Clinton’s infamous lie, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” (a porky that seemed to be working until the FBI’s forensic scientists discovered his semen on Miss Lewinsky’s dress.)
Coincidentally, Armstrong’s public relations adviser is the self same man who was in Clinton’s corner during the Lewinsky affair. Mark Fabiani, aka “The Master of Disaster” is America’s Max Clifford. He has been with Armstrong since 2010, scripting his every move. Clinton wasn’t prosecuted for either the Whitewater or Lewinsky scandals, instead, going from strength to strength with his Clinton Charity Foundation for Global Health. Fabiani’s job is to repeat the trick for Lance. The difference is that while Bill was and is “a flawed humanitarian”, for Armstrong, these are only words to be repeated to camera.
With his vast financial resources, Armstrong simply sued anyone who so much as whispered “cheat”. When Oprah asked him about suing a former masseuse Emily Reilly who claimed she saw him doping, he said, “I can’t remember. We sued so many people.”
Oprah’s clever question, “Do you consider yourself a cheat?” drew a response that sums the man up: “I looked up the definition of cheater once and I didn’t qualify because I wasn’t giving myself an unfair advantage”. As for the testers, outwitting them was simply “a question of scheduling.” Winfrey’s question, “Was it the most sophisticated doping conspiracy ever?” prompted the answer “We weren’t as bad as the East Germans.”
The interview merely reinforces the conclusion that Armstrong is a monster and a sociopath. I would like to think that he will be prosecuted in the federal court, that he will never be allowed to compete in cycling or triathlon again, that he will be sued for every penny he has earned so illegitimately and that he will disappear into the oblivion he so richly deserves. The reality is that Fabiani will soon have steered his course to public redemption. In a year or two, Lance will be back in the cancer wards being photographed with stricken children, giving lectures on the dangers of drug abuse at Harvard and making a fortune with his tell-all book. Maybe he could call it “Lyin Eyes.”