IN October, after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said cyclist Lance Armstrong had cheated while winning seven Tour de France titles, Armstrong issued a statement saying he would end his long fight against USADA. “Today I turn the page,” he said. “I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances.”
Turns out that was just another lie for Armstrong, because just three months later, he sat down with Oprah Winfrey and admitted he had used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) throughout his career. Armstrong joins a long list of athletic frauds, men and women who have excelled not solely by honing their athletic gifts, but by using chemicals that help them grow stronger and recover more quickly after workouts and injuries. But his case is different for a few reasons.
One is his status as a cancer survivor. We were uplifted by this slim Texan beating cancer and then humbling those snooty Europeans by winning the most grueling bike race on the planet. We couldn't wait to get our hands on the yellow wristbands that support his Livestrong Foundation dedicated to cancer research. What a story!
What also sets Armstrong apart from other cheats is his serial lying and his unrelenting efforts to smear those who might wonder how it is that he managed to be so successful — cleanly — in a sport rife with performance-enhancing drugs. After USADA issued its report in October outlining the vast drug operation carried out by Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service team, Armstrong said, “At every turn, USADA has played the role of a bully, threatening everyone in its way and challenging the good faith of anyone who questions its motives or its methods ...”
Armstrong would know. He labeled as vindictive or jealous or liars any former teammates or associates who testified about his use of PEDs. He was quick to use lawsuits and bullying to try to muzzle naysayers and keep the charade afloat. Former U.S. cycler Greg LeMond incurred Armstrong's wrath in 2001. LeMond, a three-time winner of the Tour de France, said he was disappointed to hear Armstrong was associated with an Italian doctor who was accused of being involved in doping. Not long after, LeMond had lost his bike sponsor — Armstrong had the same one. LeMond says Armstrong called him that summer to tell him he could find 10 people who would swear that LeMond used performance-enhancing drugs when he raced.
Perhaps worst of all, Armstrong lied repeatedly. Sometimes he would say he had never tested positive for PEDs, which isn't the same thing as being clean. But other times he would state flatly that he hadn't doped and wouldn't dope. An interview on CNN with Larry King and Bob Costas in August 2005 stands out.
King: “Can you unequivocally say you have never used an illegal substance ever?”
Armstrong: “Listen, I've said it for seven years. I've said it for longer than seven years. I have never doped. I can say it again, but I've said it for seven years. It doesn't help. But the fact of the matter is I haven't. And 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.”
Nice touch: Make your case while tugging at the heartstrings by alluding to the cancer. Pretty slick. Or more accurately: slimy.