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Celeb Style

    Lance Armstrong: Tie-Free and Not All That Sorry

    18th January 2013

    {Oprah sure looked great, huh?}

    So did everyone watch Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Lance Armstrong last night?

    I did, and I had just a few thoughts on the subject I hope you’ll indulge me with, and then I’d be interested in hearing your take on the situation.

    On Style Girlfriend, I try my best to give you guys advice that will make women look at you and say, “Now there’s a man I’d like to get to know better.” Seeing Armstrong’s performance last night, the term “man” never entered my mind.

    His demeanor and appearance – including that open-necked shirt, rakishly, almost aggressively crossed leg, and booted foot (not even a lace-up!) that was constantly invading Miss Winfrey’s personal space – suggested he had better places to be, that he was above the proceedings.

    He owned up to everything – or nearly everything – but didn’t seem sorry. In fact, I was surprised by how much finger pointing he still did. Sure, he answered “yes” to all of O’s hard-hitting questions up front, but from there? He started lobbing denials, accusations, and non-apologies at her as rapidly as he used to lead the peloton in the Tour.

    Here’s the thing. When it comes to doping in cycling, it seems to me that, “Everyone was doing it” actually is a (somewhat) valid response. The pervasiveness of doping extends to probably even more sports than we’d like to imagine these days. I’m not saying that Armstrong wasn’t wrong to engage in the activity, but I understand that the sport’s doping culture then, and still probably now, was one in which Armstrong was a player, not the leader.

    BUT.

    I believe a man’s follow-up response would be, “And I was in a place that I could have stopped it, or said something, or brought attention to it, and I didn’t. And for that I am sorry.”

    And who knows? Maybe he’s a victim of his own two-part special, and he’ll get into that tonight – how he intends to work with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to change the sport from within. How much he loves cycling and would like to help return it to its purest form. How he’d like to cycle again competitively – this time without drugs.

    WHAT I KNOW

    The man I saw last night still – still – couldn’t be bothered to be held responsible for his actions, and as a woman, that’s not the kind of man I want in my life. I want a full apology, and then I want you to tell me what steps you’re going to take to ensure it never, ever ever happens again. Continued denials and non-emphatic half-apologies wouldn’t do it for me.

    And it works both ways, of course. Any time anything is even vaguely my fault – in work, in relationships – I own it. “Hey, my bad. I will do this this and this to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” I want to be someone people know they can trust. I won’t gain that reputation if I’m always passing the buck.

    A man I trust doesn’t pass the buck. Or say it stops around him. Near him, but not actually with him. And if he tried, I’d be out the door before he could get out another, “yeah, but…”

    A true man of style fesses up his faults to the woman in his life, especially if that woman is Oprah.

    I want that when you tell me you’re sorry, you actually look sorry. I want my man to know and accept that the buck stops with him.

    Tell me:

    what do you guys think about this – admittedly tangled – issue?

    (image: George Burns/Reuters)

    • KPS

      Spot on.

    • Chris Rogers

      I unfortunately haven’t had a chance to see the interview yet but I have a few thoughts about it, what I’ve read about the interview and his past.

      First of all, the fact that the Tour de France isn’t re-declaring a winner of the 7 Tours Lance won is very telling. I think they are doing this because there are no or very few eligible riders in the top 10 due to doping allegations. The fact is, to be competitive you had to dope and if Lance hadn’t won those tours someone else would be in this same situation and sitting with Oprah.

      Second, people seem pretty upset that Lance isn’t divulging details. He isn’t giving details because he is in the midst of a handful of very serious lawsuits with the potential for a federal suit to be brought against him. I honestly don’t think he is able to throw around names and details like most people seem to want. There’s a reason he brought a team of lawyers with him to this interview.

      Finally, I really wish people would stop trashing the Livestrong organization. If there is some good to be found in all of this, Livestrong is definitely it. This organization does so much for cancer patients and families and is completely undeserving of the criticism and snide remarks it seems to be getting.

      Wow that was long…but you did ask for my thoughts :)

      • Dominic

        +1

    • Jim

      Yup, he didn’t seem sorry at all. And saying “everybody was doing it” doesn’t excuse his actions, in my opinion.

      I’m just talking about starting the menswear trend of wearing brightly colored bracelets. I guess he did steroids or something too?

      • TJ

        haha nice

      • Chris Rogers

        Clever

    • Dominic

      I’ve been road cycling for around 5 years now and have followed it long before. What the general population fail to understand is the situation professional cyclists were in at the time. A basic breakdown of the situation. You have arguably the most physically demanding career in sport. Your teams aren’t controlled purely by the teams, their sponsors play a role in the team bigger than any other sport. The only way your team stays together is through sponsorship. The only way the sponsors get any recognition is by their riders winning and cycling upfront and therefore being filmed. Suddenly someone in cycling starts taking drugs and is doing better than everyone else (their sponsors are getting more air-time and the rider is making more money). Every team is then pushed into it by the sponsors. Refuse to dope? Your out of the team and everything you’ve worked so hard for is out the window. You have to keep in mind these riders have never been paid like other sportsmen and their only route to earning big bucks, wins is to please the sponsors, stay in the team and dope.

      All of this combined with the UCI who govern cycling effectively turning a blind eye to blood doping because they are financially linked to the companies providing the drugs to the riders

      • Dominic

        I’m not justifying what he’s done but everyone is quick to point the finger when if they were in the same position I doubt they’d be so honest. A lot of people don’t understand it. It’s very different to doping in other sports as it is corrupt on nearly every level. The riders are merely pawns trying to be the best they can be. A lot of these riders have given up education, work experience and other life experiences to ride at a professional level. Cycling is their life and quite rightly they’re trying to secure a job to feed their family and carry on doing why they love.

        • Dominic

          On a hopefully SG approved side note: just one button undone Lance and stuff a pocket square in that jacket, it’s not hard. You could probably do with impressing some people right now.

          • Alexander

            While I agree with the notion that “everybody/persons xyz do it” is kind of a bad way of arguing I can definitely see your point. It’s easy to judge without understanding or knowing contextual backgrounds – people where I live (Germany) experienced this first hand while the issue at hand was a lot more complex.

            Although I think at this point either arguing like you did or generally retreating might be better if he’s in a middle ground where a lot of people won’t understand the circumstances and he could be running into legal trouble so it’s basically a predicament.

        • Chris Rogers

          Well put and a much better explanation of what I was trying to get across about steroid use being required for competitiveness at that level!

      • Brett2142

        Even if you buy the “everyone does it” line, Lance destroyed the reputations and careers of countless people who did nothing but tell the truth. He sued individuals and newspapers, and won cash settlements and judgments.

        There’s no explaining that and it’s going to be his lasting legacy.

        • Dominic

          I have to disagree with you, I don’t believe Lance destroyed the reputations and careers I think he merely failed to be a whistleblower. It is the people/sponsors putting pressure on Lance and others to dope who have caused all the damage. The general public just need someone to blame and once they have someone that fits the bill they lose all rational thought and ability to stand back and analyse the situation critically.

          In terms of his suing of others, sure he may have been the face of the individual suing the other party but how many people are behind him? Maybe every other cyclist who was doping at the time who doesn’t want their reputation tarnishing? The members of the UCI financially involved? The sponsors who don’t want it to be traced back to them?

          You’ve got to look at it critically and not run at the first apparent perpetrator with pitch forks and torches.

          But if that’s a lilac shirt he’s wearing, put him in death row.

          • LV

            By that end, should Lance be just as in the wrong as a tier 3 cyclist who knew what was going on and could also whistleblow? Or, as a leader and ambassador for your sport to a wider audience, is there more onus on the celebrities, because they are visible and will have more sway/credibility? Or the doctor in the van? Or the lab assistant in the testing facility?

    • TJ

      Well I don’t know much about the specific issue regarding Armstrong other than what I’ve heard on the radio and I didn’t get to see the interview last night. I can however comment on the owing up to your mistakes issue. I have always believed in that. It is something that I strive to do. If I made a mistake, I admit it. Then I try to come up with a solution to the mistake and then I decide how to make sure it never happens again.

    • Jon B

      I didn’t get to see the interview, but there is a good comment I heard on ESPN that fits in with what you said.

      So he’s said he’s sorry (maybe). For me, that’s not enough. And it’s not because of everyone’s doing it, or pressure from sponsors, or whatever. I went through watching the whole steroid debacle in baseball, so I get it. There’s one thing I don’t agree with it.

      Throughout the accusations against him, he verbally attacked the character and integrity of his accusers. He made them out to be vindictive, petty people who were just jealous of his success. He actively participated in character assassination so he looked better and the public was on his side. And now it turns out they were right? I’m sorry, his apology doesn’t begin to cover it. Describing someone as ‘vindictive, bitter, vengeful and jealous’ when they were telling the truth doesn’t end with ‘I’m sorry for doping.’

      So, sure, you’re sorry for doping. Got it. What about your former teammates, who’s names you dragged through the mud? What about all the counter accusations you gave? Are you sorry about those? Do you regret calling them all those names? Like you said, you have to show me what you’re going to do to make it better. All that I see is that Lance might be sorry for doping, and wants people just to forget everything that happened. No. That’s not how it works. You have a lot more work ahead of you Lance.

      Now, I haven’t seen the interview, so he might have done some apologizing for that there. Even if he did though, there’s more to be done. He’s just taken one step on a long journey.

      • Chris Rogers

        Here’s some quotes from last night that I’ve read, it seems he acknowledges there is more work to be done. How much of this is for tv vs. actually going to happen is yet to be seen.

        –”The closest Armstrong came to contrition was when Winfrey asked him about his apologies in recent days, notably to former teammate Frankie Andreu, who struggled to find work in cycling after Armstrong dropped him from the USPS team, as well as his wife, Betsy. Armstrong said she was jealous of his success, and invented stories about his doping as part of a long-running vendetta.

        “Have you made peace?” Winfrey asked.

        “No,” Armstrong replied, “because they’ve been hurt too badly, and a 40-minute (phone) conversation isn’t enough.”"

        –”What do you want to say about Emma O’Reilly?” Winfrey asked.

        “She, she’s one of these people that I have to apologize to. She’s one of these people that got run over, got bullied.”

        • Jon B

          And that’s great. I hope he means that, because that’s where I think the real damage is.

    • Aaron Trent

      I tweeted you a promise to respond to you about LA if you blogged, so here it goes. A little background on me is that I’ve raced bicycles at a relatively high level for a few years and have seen the inside workings of the sport ay a personal level.

      Doping in cycling goes back to the late 1800′s; people have been looking for an edge for as long as they’ve been shoving a bike seat under under their asses and a prize check in front of their noses. But the dope evolved from alcohol to amphetamines to the modern era of blood boosting products. It was said that a clean rider with enough physical gifts and hard work could compete right up to the mid 1980′s and early ’90′s when blood doping and boosting became common.

      “Everyone was doing it” as an argument falls flat because of the guys that WERE NOT doing it. A lot of guys making a crap salary racing in the 2nd and 3rd tier divisions of the sport, but you don’t hear about those guys because they eventually have to get a real job. It would be false to say Lance presided over doping in the whole sport but he was a pioneer and was certainly the driving force on his team. A Teir 1 (Pro Tour) cycling team is made up of 20-30 riders and only 9 get to go to the Tour de France. As the team leader he had a major role in selecting the Tour team, if you weren’t fast enough you didn’t go to the world’s biggest race (a huge honor in the sport), most guys could not be fast enough without “the program”. If you are not fast enough you lose your spot on the wider US Postal/Discovery Team. A lot has been said of bullying, but I feel that term is juvenile and should be replaced with manipulating.

      The issue with the level playing field argument is that the quality of the doping program is only as good as the doctor administering the program so Lance, with the best funded program, was not on a level playing field.

      The underlying point is that making excuses for your own doing doesn’t explain away all of the people’s careers that you ruined.

      TL;DR

      Lance doped, lots of people doped but that doesn’t make it right. We didn’t give a pass to the Enron execs who got rich ruining the company and a lot of people’s retirements.

      • Chris Rogers

        Great explanation.

        For one, I feel like there are two separate sides to this story. One is the doping side which nobody is denying LA not only participated in but worked to perfect with his doctors. The other is his personal actions towards people around him. While his apology for doping is pretty easily accepted I think a lot of the restoration of his public image will come from his actions towards those he’s manipulated.

        I have been wondering this whole time if the UCI has just loved the fact that LA has been the target of so much criticism. I feel that for a system as widespread and far reaching as doping was at this level then there must have been people within the governing bodies who not only knew about but supported the various teams and their doping programs. Is it wrong to say that maybe people should look at the bigger picture and pass some responsibility up the chain? I realize lance is an easy target due to his public image throughout his career,and he has earned a good deal of criticism being thrown at him, but I have never felt lance alone is solely responsible.

      • http://www.stylegirlfriend.com Style Girlfriend

        Hi Aaron, Thanks for your thorough comment!

        Just curious, are you really 102 years old? That’s what your wikipedia says… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Trent

    • TJ

      I’d be interested to hear what you think of the manti teo girlfriend hoax as well. It might take a while for all the facts and details to be worked out though so maybe it is best to wait.

      • http://www.stylegirlfriend.com Style Girlfriend

        That story is crazy. I definitely want to wait until all the facts have come out before commenting on any of it though

    • Nate

      Who cares? Are people upset because some politicians decided steroids should be illegal, so since they decided that we all think they are bad as well? If they made alcohol illegal would we all the sudden think poorly of anyone that drank it? Who gives them the right? Let people take what they want.

      • Chris Rogers

        I’ve heard suggestions of making cycling similar to weightlifting in that there are essentially clean and “unclean?” sides which compete independently of each other. The clean side still runs the risk of being tainted but there would be an outlet for anything goes peak performance riders to compete without all the secrecy.

    • LV

      (Disclaimer: I didn’t watch the interview.) This is unfortunate, really. Some people leave quietly disgraced (MarK McGwire), others not so much. Lance is pretty unique in being a “solo” sport champion multiple times over and has had plenty of years to take the higher road. Unfortunately, he never has, and it has hurt untold people along the way. He’s spent YEARS actively tearing people down for being truthful. He’s going to have a good 20 years of civil and defamation lawsuits ahead (hard to feel sorry for that, though). I imagine a legal team of advisors just out of frame for the interview.

      The problem is he’s been hounded and finally backed into a corner that he hasn’t been able to get out of. He’s now coming somewhat clean about things, but it’s not like he came to this realization that he needs to be a better person and maybe be a champion of drug-free cycling. Instead, this is coming as a reaction to being stuck with no other way out. He’s *finally* being caught out in the lies, so he has really no choice. He can either leave the spotlight entirely and become a recluse, or start being honest. I think we’ve seen that Lance isn’t one to walk away from the attention.

      It’s so unfortunate, because in a whole history of sports, his story and performance has been as inspirational as any. To have all of that tainted by performance-enhancing drugs that are against sport rules (cheating) is such a waste.

      As a side note, It’s also unfortunate that the damage extends to his charities. People react and want their money pulled out of charities with his name on them, as if he personally used the money to fund his drugs or something.

    • Cooper

      First off, great article Megan. Secondly, I agree that what he did was wrong and saving face by fielding questions only adds fuel to the fire. Brevity is also something you want to avoid during adversity like I think Lance did to some of Harpo’s questions. You’ve got a great notion of how a man should act and take responsibility. Hope you find one that can be as honest and funny as your posts!

    • Cardiff Giant

      He beat…Cancer! CAAAAN-CER. The Big Casino. The mental and physical toll that having, fighting and beating cancer has on a person are enough for me to give the guy a pass on doping. Besides, that is one rediculously grueling race. For him to even compete, let alone WIN, sevens times is amazing…drugs or no drugs. It’s not like the guy rode a Vespa for portions of the race. If we’re holding athletes feet to the fire, theres a cornucopia of wife beating, gun toting NFLers we should start with and not a uni-balled Cancer fighting, liar. #LayOffLance

    • Mark

      A good article that picked up on similar themes I did as well. As a cyclist and follower of the sport (and ex-Lance fan) I find the whole thing a sad situation on a number of levels, but I won’t go into that. Megan, your comment about true men of style fessing up to the women in his life was great, but imo let down by bringing in Oprah. I don’t understand the (almost) deification of Oprah and why she should command confession. If anything, I would imagine that confession to a person’s significant other would be more important.

      Nice to have you touch on this very hot topic at the moment though and your thoughts are very much appreciated!

    • Scott MacKenzie

      I understand that people have become frustrated with Lance mainly due to the personal attacks he fired off at others, but you have to remember, for over two years now, his former friends and teammates who willingly doped, have thrown him under the bus, self servingly, all in attempt to shorten their own punishments. The other issue I would like to address as the fact that people seem to think that Testosterone and EPO, and even blood doping will magically turn an average person into an elite athlete. No amount of dope in the world will make an average joe turn into Lance Armstrong

    • Arkhangael

      I think he is a Survivor. And should be left alone. If he had the courage to come speak on one of the most watched shows of today, it may be he doesn’t have anything to feel guilty about.

    • dannanthony

      Well put, Girlfriend. No mercy for Armstrong. There’s a big difference between being forced by your conscience to tell the truth, and being forced by evidence, which is the case here. One is forgiveable, one isn’t. Not only did he rob people of the titles and glory they earned, he bullied anyone who deigned to question him (and question him rightly), outspending them in court. Some things ya just shouldn’t ought to have done in the first place, and he’s committed a years-long string of those things. As for any kind of comeback, if Armstrong had any grace, he’d go away and let the sport heal from the damage he did it.

    • Aaron Levy

      I actually thinkt he most interesting part of this post is about his demeanor. In the photo posted, I see a slouched man just sort of going through the motions because he has to. Commentary in the article reflects an aggressive man who thinks he’s “bigger” than being there.

      An odd lesson – wonder if he actually wants/cares about forgiveness or if his agent just said “hey, you should probably do this.”