Last night, Lance Armstrong sat down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey. It’s a dance we’ve seen in America time and time again—disgraced celebrity seeks absolution from TV icon. Say your apologies, shed a few tears, promise to never do it again and then get out of there. But will that prove to be enough for Lance Armstrong? He was a figure so central to his sport that the current situation regarding doping seems to be an indictment of cycling in general. His critics are furious with him for letting down so many people and tarnishing the reputation of an activity that was already beset with problems of athletes using drugs. Furthermore, Armstrong has been vehemently denying drug use for years now. For him to reverse his position convinces many that this move is purely opportunistic and not genuine in the least.
How can someone lie so aggressively for so long? There are fans out there who come to Armstrong’s defense. There is the old argument that all athletes at the highest professional levels use performance enhancers of some kind, so Armstrong was simply trying to keep up. Or there are the supporters who were positively affected by Armstrong’s Live Strong organization, and aren’t really affected by what may or may not have happened in the world of sport.
So who is right? Is this sincere? Is Armstrong trying to make amends with his past and move onward and upward? Or is this just a ploy to keep competing and avoid ruining his legacy?
Dan Empfield, blogs about triathlon and bicycles at slowtwitch.com. He was an early innovator in triathlon bikes and wetsuits, and one of the best writers about triathlon. He has known Armstrong since he was a teenager.
Royal Oakes, General Counsel for the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California, and partner at Barger and Wolen, LLP.
Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and author of “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves” (Harper, 2012)