Friday, January 18, 2013


Dramatic Real Life Confessions

You MAY have heard that this Lance guy confessed to doping? In passing? Rick Reilly on his own "Say it ain't so, Joe" moment:

Among my emails Wednesday morning, out of the blue, was one from Lance Armstrong.

Riles, I'm sorry.

All I can say for now but also the most heartfelt thing too. Two very important words.


And my first thought was ... "Two words? That's it?"

Two words? For 14 years of defending a man? And in the end, being made to look like a chump?

Wrote it, said it, tweeted it: "He's clean." Put it in columns, said it on radio, said it on TV. Staked my reputation on it.

"Never failed a drug test," I'd always point out. "Most tested athlete in the world. Tested maybe 500 times. Never flunked one."

Why? Because Armstrong always told me he was clean.

On the record. Off the record. Every kind of record. In Colorado. In Texas. In France. On team buses. In cars. On cell phones.

During MASSAGES, even. Shared massages! Reilly, incidentally, HOUNDED Barry Bonds (correctly) about his PED usage, while believing Lance. That being said, a lot of people believed him, which is sad, and he's absolutely still the greatest cyclist in the history of the sport, and everyone in cycling dopes, you have to dope to compete, but maybe be the change or whatever or not, and he was the worst kind of ridiculous asshole in the cause of backing up his deceptions. Calling women (who were telling the truth) crazy bitches, for a start. Crazy, bitch prostitutes.

If you've followed cycling, even a little bit, you have watched this guy just freaking double-down, over and over and over again, until he ran out of chips. And it was probably pretty lonely for him, having to lie to a "friend" during massages, but it was a lot lonelier for the members of the peloton and the wives and the girlfriends and the sponsors and the press he ostracized and threatened and filed suits against and belittled.

I don't really care about consensual blood doping in cycling, honestly, versus, say, the East German athletes who were used like steroid pincushions by their government. I wouldn't have a problem with an all-dope Tour de France. It might be intellectually interesting to know how quickly someone can make the Tourmalet climb under careful medical supervision. There is not going to be a clean Tour de France. The richest teams will always be ahead of our ability to test them, which is why no cyclists ever support retroactive testing of their own older samples.

All of which is just to say that athletes are not heroes, really, and it's a mug's game to imbue physical ability with more meaning than it deserves. But this guy? This guy has acted like a real schmuck, and if you watched him on Oprah, I don't think he's ever lost a night's sleep over it (it's bad for your training regimen.)

68 Comments / Post A Comment


As a lifelong Giants fan, I have some sympathy for the competitive edge and consensual atmosphere PEDs arguments. However, his vicious persecution of people telling the truth is what makes me so much angrier about Armstrong than I could ever feel about Bonds (who wasn't a nice guy, and who lied to Congress, but didn't sue the shit out of every whistleblower in the nastiest way possible). I also hate the fact that Armstrong is just doing this for personal gain (permission to compete in triathlons), not because he's sorry for his behavior at all.

Nicole Cliffe

Which is NUTS, too, because, bare minimum, he'll get the ban lifted by the time he's fifty. That is the only part of the whole thing that makes me think he has an inner life: that he's willing to subject himself to bankrupting lawsuits and humiliation because he wants to compete again.


@sophia_h Basically. I can't get upset about PEDs any longer. As someone that's a lifelong Red Sox fan, I think anyone that's been a baseball fan for the past decade is probably over the shock and scandal of PEDs.

But listening to what he did to those that questioned him over the years makes my skin crawl. And like you said, he's still not doing this for any reason other than personal gain. He should be banned for life from all things.


@ATF@twitter I mean, I get that in certain sports, at certain times, PEDs were an open and accepted secret that athletes figured they couldn't compete without. But the personal vendettas are just so unpleasant and hypocritical, I wish that's what people would focus on instead. Also, remember the time Armstrong dumped the wife who'd seen him through cancer for Sheryl Crow? Yeah.

P.J. Morse

@sophia_h A fellow Giants fan. Barry Bonds just wanted his hits and was willing to do anything to get them. The same goes for most athletes. (Is there such a thing as an "all-natural" athlete anymore?) But Bonds decided to hunker down after his public humiliation. He'll probably be able to come back as a baseball hero, maybe in a decade, and hardly anyone will remember the scandal, probably because no one will give a crap about PEDs.

But Armstrong doesn't have the patience of a Bonds. He is a PR nightmare on wheels. Very, very speedy wheels.

Better to Eat You With

@P.J. Morse Baseball is a bit of a special case, in my opinion, because every single news outlet that covered baseball highlights during those years focused exclusively on home runs. Nothing else mattered to ESPN et. al. That additional layer of pressure strikes me as especially unfair, since the same media outlets that helped create the phenomenon so gleefully crucified the heroes they helped to create.

P.J. Morse

@Better to Eat You With So true! I guess we create the heroes we deserve. Or maybe we let the news outlets create the heroes we deserve ... I admit that I was as fixated on the home-run numbers as the next fan.


"It might be intellectually interesting to know how quickly someone can make the Tourmalet climb under careful medical supervision." Finally, a reason for me to be interested in any sort of spectator sport!


@ourlightsinvain My best guess is: twice as long as a TdF cyclist. Based on how long it takes clean amateur cyclists.


Lance has always been an ass- throwing other cyclists under the bus (or under other other cyclists)- so the Oprah appearance just confirms that he's probably a sociopath or a cylon, who knows.

In other tangentially related athlete news, the Te'o girlfran hoax/lie saga has reached peak hilarity with finger pointing and conflicting press statements. It's like a flashback to Xanga, 2004.


@funfetti Someone should administer the psychopath test!


@OhMyGoshYouGuys Or video him from the back during sex to see if his spine glows.


@OhMyGoshYouGuys The Voight-Kampff Empathy test?


I love all the armchair cycling/doping experts that have come out of the woodwork with all this. I'll give Lance Armstrong one thing, he is a master instigator and for that I tip my hat.


but he NEVER called her fat


@.abbey I did laugh out loud at that.

"I said, “Listen, I called you crazy. I called you a bitch, I called you all these things, but I never called you fat.” Because she thought I said, You were a fat crazy bitch. And I said, “Betsy, I never said you were fat.”


@Jen@twitter You laughed? Did you see her response on CNN as she watched that? She was near tears.


@gobblegirl Oh my god chill out. I did laugh. Because that thought process is absurd. My laughing had nothing to do with her or her reaction, it was because it just a prime example of how warped his thinking is about the whole situation.


@Jen@twitter I misunderstood, and thought you meant you laughed at how funny a joke it was. I agree that it was a very revealing moment - probably more so than he intended.

Jolly Farton

@Jen@twitter well geez, I don't think that warranted a "oh my god chill out"

sorry to butt in a month later

Jolly Farton

@.abbey also excellent post by Caity Weaver at Gawker about that awkward moment in the interview


This is it. I think most folks are missing the source of the real outrage. He doped. He knew it, other cyclists knew it, cycling fans (myself included) knew it, and I think that even at some level, Rick Reilly knew it. We just didn't want to believe it and wanted to believe his "narrative". Who wouldn't?
The outrage is that he systematically destroyed the lives and careers of people who spoke the truth. He called women names, he outed his former friend Greg LeMonde as a sexual abuse victim and said he must be crazy because of that, he extorted silence from teammates and underlings. With one stern statement of indignant denial, people's businesses failed. The doping itself seems harmless in comparison.
He needs to go to jail, in my opinion. It should be enough that he is stripped of all titles, grace and credibility, but it isn't.


@SuperMargie I want to see him tried for perjury.


@SuperMargie Seconded. Admittedly, I've had a bone (well, really two bones) to pick with Armstrong for years. The first because I read Betsy Andreu's account a long time ago and found it really credible and was aghast that no one else seemed to. And the second because I had cancer (as a relatively young person) in the early 2000s. Seriously, about every third conversation I had with people about cancer, they invoked Armstrong as a role model/inspiration. So many people asked me about whether I was going to do some big sports thing (e.g., run a marathon) when I was done with treatment. I can't help but feel gratified that his super-human accomplishments were, in fact, super human.

Allie J


Yes! Yes! Perjury. Why is this not on the table? Is this a possibility because I've never heard anyone bring it up. I'm assuming in all the times he lied his ass off, he did it at least once under oath. You know, when he was systematically destroying the lives of people who dared to tell the truth. He's appalling and I'd love to see him served with jail time.


@gobblegirl I am not sure if he can be tried for perjury or not, but I was wondering about any violations of RICO since he used collusion and perjury to obtain financial gain (prize money)? I know nothing about the legal stuff. Just that he is a huge prick.


@SuperMargie Read the links I put below. There are all sorts of consequences he's trying to navigate right now. It's actually really interesting stuff!


@datalass OMG, can we just retire the whole expectation that if you beat ____ (cancer/other life-threatening conviction or illness), you are somehow required to go out and perform feats of athletic prowess? Most survivors would probably say that just beating cancer/whatever disease was accomplishment enough without feeling pressured to run a 10K afteward.


First of all, Reilly, Armstrong didn't make you look like a chump. You are a chump.
Second of all, "he's absolutely still the greatest cyclist in the history of the sport" is not true. We have absolutely no way of knowing what kind of cyclist he would be if he didn't cheat and were competing against other clean athletes. Would he still be a great athlete, because he worked hard and is insanely dedicated? Sure, but neither he nor we have any idea whether he could have won a real Tour. He's a nobody.
Finally, I am sick and tired of the "everyone in cycling dopes, you have to dope to compete," excuse, especially from athletes. It is a cop-out, and a complete sellout of the basic premise of sport. In what other human endeavor would we accept "but everyone else was doing it" as an excuse? Did we accept that excuse when the bankers used it in 2008?


@gobblegirl Did we accept that excuse when the bankers used it in 2008? apparently we did, cause not one of those fuckers has gone to jail.


@gobblegirl grrrrr, this x 1 million!!!!! "In what other human endeavor would we accept "but everyone else was doing it" as an excuse?" Also, Lauren Fleshman's open letter: http://asklaurenfleshman.com/journal/2013/01/17/a-letter-to-lance-armstrong-a-fellow-pro-athletes-plee/#comments

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@gobblegirl As my mom always said, "If everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?" (Incidentally, I learned my lesson the hard way about jumping off cliffs, which ended in a severely bruised tailbone after a long fall into a cold lake from a high cliff. Mom was right.)


@gobblegirl I would love a return to no-doping cycling. I don't think we'll ever GET it, but I'd love it.


@gobblegirl I think we can confidently say that he was super-good at taking advantage of the various performance enhancers, maybe the "best." So, yeah, it's really hard to know how good he would have been without them, because even if EVERYBODY was taking some PEDs, that doesn't mean they were all taking the same ones, or getting the same benefits.


@gobblegirl People aren't saying that though, or at least those who actually pay attention to what's going on in the sport. Exhibit A: all the work Jonathan Vaughters is doing.


@Jen@twitter I don't know what part of which of my comments you're referring to? I have followed the Slipstream team stuff, and I think it looks great so far.


"everyone in cycling dopes, you have to dope to compete"

This is just not true.

For perceptive insight try:


I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

"And it was probably pretty lonely for him, having to lie to a "friend" during massages, but it was a lot lonelier for the members of the peloton and the wives and the girlfriends and the sponsors and the press he ostracized and threatened and filed suits against and belittled."

It's not lonely if you're a sociopath. It probably feels like winning.

Tuna Surprise

I usually agree with stuff here, but this is verging into bullshit territory.

Not everyone in cycling dopes, although many do. But the real issue is that lots of people dope because they feel tremendous pressure to do so. When Lance Armstrong was the top rider on his teams, he held uncanny power to hire/fire the supporting team members. And if you are a guy who is trying to make a living as a professional domestique, you either get with the program or go home. I doubt (although I don't know) that Barry Bonds had the ability to fire guys on the Giants roster if they didn't dope.

Plus, Armstrong isn't even the best US cyclist ever. I think Greg LeMond clearly has him beat.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Tuna Surprise I guess I'm not really seeing the bullshit difference you're talking about here. The idea is that lots of cyclists are doping. You say lots of cyclists are doping, because of pressure to do so. Lack of integrity doesn't really excuse that, or does it? I don't know, I'm not a cyclist. If doping is expected or you're fired, I was unaware.


I wrote a whole long thing just now, because I always like to take part in anything sports related on the pin, but it got really ranty and angry and mean, so I have deleted it. So I will just say, Rick Reilly, shut up, just shut up forever, really, I cannot stand you.


@katiemcgillicuddy Also, I did not mean this as a reply to this thread! I just meant it generally. Sorry @Tuna Surprise, @IROTOTR, that had nothing to do with you guys!


@Tuna Surprise You don't have to look any further than the best female cyclist in the world and her dramatic retirement speech this week to know that the "oh well doping b/c everybody dopes and it's consensual" line is BS. I'm pretty disappointed that the hairpin editors didn't see fit to include her in the coverage of Armstrong. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2013/jan/16/cyclist-nicole-cooke-say-exactly-how-is

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@katiemcgillicuddy It's understandable; Reilly is terrible.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose It all made me so angry I just started punching keys and clicking things. Happy hour better come early today.

Tuna Surprise

No problem. Reilly is terrible!


@Tuna Surprise ... and anybody who doubts this should read Dave Zabriskie's (arguably one of the most likable cyclists... ever?) deposition. It's heart-breaking.

Crackity Jones

@intentsandpurposes@twitter Yes to that! Nicole Cooke is seriously, seriously amazing, and her retirement speech was absolutely amazing. And it really pissed me off that it got so little coverage, whilst we got blanket coverage of serial liar and cheat Armstrong barely admitting to what we already knew. Grr. Btw, as to cycling never being clean and no clean rider ever winning the Tour, I *refuse* to believe Sir Bradley Wiggins is not clean. No fricking way.

Nicole Cliffe

I am reading the Nicole Cooke speech right now, and it is incredible. My cycling/doping views are definitely slanted after physically living with French cyclists in a town on the Tour, for whom saying Lance's name aloud is like, I dunno, throwing shade at raw cheeses.

Nicole Cliffe

And I also know "nice" people who dope, which has its own weird baggage.


@Nicole Cliffe - what is this "throwing shade at raw cheese" thing? Fromage-obsessed minds want to know!


Do you think Sheryl Crow knew? She had to know, right?


@Ames As someone who gives not one shit about professional sports (besides the Steelers, of co), 90% of my thoughts around this scandal have involved Sheryl Crow.



All I can think of is a comment I read elsewhere mentioning that when Sheryl Crow found out she had cancer, instead of going through the process of treatment and recovery with somebody who had suffered similarly and publicly, she chose to go it alone. Going through cancer alone was better than going through cancer with the One True Cancer Survivor. That speaks volumes about Lance Armstrong in my mind.


I used to be a keen TdF fan, and I just want to say here, once, (because I'm not talking about it anywhere else) that I feel sick. Sick because I really believed him. I wasn't surprised when Richard Virenque was busted because what else would you expect from such a type? I was a bit surprised about Hamilton, and Vinokourov but enough to shrug and say, 'pity'. But Armstrong...
Bah. I don't watch the TdF anymore.


A very smart insider's take on the "but everyone was doing it!" line:

"3. "If Lance doped, it doesn't matter - everyone else was doping too, so it was a level playing field"

This is another common defence, and it leads to all kinds of bizarre justifications of Armstrong's success and why he should be left alone. It's also frustratingly wrong, for three reasons.

First, remember that doping was illegal, which means that even though everyone may have been doing it, they were doing it with the pressure of a legal system on them. That means that some will have been brazen enough to try more than others. You are not seeing a level playing field because not every athlete is willing to risk as much given that there are penalties for cheating. And while the testing may have been grossly inadequate, as I explained above, it still forced athletes to take risks and spend more money to get away with doping. Therefore, the results of the race were strongly influenced by who was most successful at doing the illegal thing, who wanted to take the most risk, and who had the best systems to help them get away with the illegal action. That in turn is a function of money and power, but nowhere in this does being the best cyclist factor in. And yes, the playing field is never even, but when money, power and an appetite for illegal behavior affect results more than physiology and training, there's a problem."



"he's absolutely still the greatest cyclist in the history of the sport" <--- That's a joke, right? He is HARDLY the best in the sport. You must not have ever heard of the TDF before Lance to say something like that. Guy's a douche of the highest magnitude and only "came clean" to keep his name in the spotlight. That's a fact.


What about the possibility that Armstrong GOT CANCER from his steroid usage?

Doesn't that kinda give a different slant to his rising up out of disease to triumph story?


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