It’s been two weeks since The Interview.
The smart money was all-in that Lance would go on the Oprah Show, and after a bit of dramatic set-up, rise out of his chair and confess, in a Frau Blucher tone of defiance, when she finally asked about Dr. Michele Ferrari, “Yes! Yes! Say It!! He vas my boyfriend!”
Lance could have blamed Oliver Stone, and claimed that he was influenced by “Wall Street’s” Gordon Gekko’s aphorism that “Greed is Good.”
Or that he was caught up in a “Show me the money” Moebius strip-like reality he couldn’t escape.
More or less, he took a page from impressionist Rich Little. Little had a pretty funny bit about how Richard Nixon would own up to Watergate with a little spin:
“I accept full responsibility…but not the blame. Let me explain: people who accept responsibility keep their jobs, and people who take the blame, don’t.”
Or, in Lance’s case, not a job, but a semblance of humanity for being contrite and honest.
But the veneer didn’t last long. Lance was called out while the set lights were still cooling off after he and Oprah bid each other adieu. From Betsy Andreu on CNN to USADA’s Travis Tygart and a legion of now miffed cycling journalists the cry rang out, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”
And this is just another glaring example of how the lines that once separated news, sports and entertainment have vanished faster than seven Yellow Jerseys.
Sports ethics is becoming more like George Burn’s observations about being a movie star -
“Acting is Is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
Oprah and Lance are celebrities, and you could make a pretty good case that The Interview was for ratings, in Oprah’s case to prop up a sagging network and for Lance to see if, “Ooops, my bad,” would be enough to let him get on with being what most of us past our prime aspire to. Not retirement, but Senior Games gold medals. Or at least podium placings.
There are those of us for whom the admissions that, yes, he did drugs, and yes, he lied, and yes, he is pretty much a bad person were enough. Especially because he never called Betsy Andreu a “Fat, crazy bitch.” Although he didn’t deny using “crazy and bitch.” It sure made me feel better. You don’t want to be labeling people as fat these days.
Then there are those who won’t be happy until Armstrong is (at least symbolically) brought into a public square, tied to four horses, then drawn and quartered until the lies are revealed and left to shrink, wretchedly twisting and turning as they dissolve in the sun rays of truthfulness and run harmless into the gutter and disappear.
Last Sunday Sixty Minutes ran a segment about Lance. It was short, insightful, and journalistic beyond the high-drama in Austin.
The dust hasn’t settled. We are not “there” yet, in the sense that the confession will put the mess to bed. The Lance Affair has legs, and it will drag on for some time. Now the players are eyeing each other to see if a “Truth and Reconciliation” committee can be set up so that the truth can be found. It’s being likened to what was set up in South Africa after Apartheid.
Say what? Isn’t the attempt to equate the need for the truth about doping in sports with egregious human rights violations at least a little bit disingenuous?
In the bigger picture, why are we so focused on something that’s of so little consequence to the exigencies of the world we’re in, and probably can’t be fixed?
Why pretend Lance didn’t win the Tour seven times? I’m not doubting that PEDs can help with your endurance. But as far as I can tell taking PEDs doesn’t give you the will to get on a bike for three weeks straight. And it doesn’t make you a more skilled rider. Sometimes we forget that there’s more to riding than power output and aerobic capacity. You have to be able to climb, descend, sprint– and deal with sudden adversity. Not to mention the wild card, luck.
Maybe there are two aspects to luck. First, it’s ”…the residue of design.” Like knowing that the Passage du Gois is narrow, plagued with crosswinds, and often partially flooded. So you make sure you’re in the front of the peleton so when havoc breaks out behind you your are free and clear. Does this have anything to do with PEDs or blood doping?
Then there’s more random luck. Seven tour wins without a puncture? On tubulars? Should we go back and test the tires for PEDs?
In either case, it’s a long ways from over. We are not there, yet. There will be lawsuits, countersuits, and legions of tweed-suited counselors feeding off the carrion of the Beast That Was Pro Cycling like scavengers gnawing at the last morsels of profit.
It’s really getting hard to give a fig about the mess. The millions of dollars of support given by the US Postal Service that’s now somehow tainted by the hint the USPS was defrauded? Wasn’t it for exposure? The USPS sure got that.
If you want to talk about demanding personal responsibility from people who defrauded the government (and We, the People) why don’t we expect prosecution, Grand Juries and indictments of the parties involved in the Great Financial Meltdown. The USPS money isn’t even spit in a bucket in comparison.
Then again, maybe we do need Truth and Reconciliation. But let’s apply it with a broad brush. You’ve probably read about Floyd Landis having to pay back all the donations to the Fairness to Floyd Fund, and that people are suing to get their money back for buying Lance’s books and buying into the mythology.
Good first steps. Now, I have a modest proposal. As they say, “Cry havoc, and let slip the Dogs of War!” "They" being either William Shakespeare or General Chang in Star Trek V: The Undiscovered Country.
Anyone who has a USPS or Discovery Team edition Trek bike, bought under the false pretense that they were Tour Winning Machines, should be able to demand something less offensive. Maybe Trek could, as part of its Mea Culpa, take ‘em all back and repaint them in the livery of the only American to win the Tour (without an asterisk), Greg Lemond. Wouldn’t that be some sweet justice?
The same should apply to any bike similarly tainted. Bring me your Cervelos, Giants, Tarmacs, BMCs, etc,etc,etc. But please don’t try to claim anything for a Huffy. Have some dignity.
By the way, if you have a Tour jersey, or a Pro Team replica kit (admit it, you do) say you found an IV pouch sewn into a secret back pocket and want your money back, or compensation for the mental trauma incurred from finding the drug paraphernalia.
Next, if we’re going to insist that the ‘90s was cycling’s black era, make everyone who has been implicated give back all their earnings from salary, endorsements and book sales. And somebody get Jonathan Vaughters to get rid of the weird sideburns and turtlenecks and tell Bernard Riis to stop trying to look like Michael Chiklis. We’re on to your attempts to distract us.
Do you ever get the feeling that the UCI is the organizational embodiment of Hogan’s Heroes Sgt Schultz (“I see nothing”) and Casablanca’s corrupt Captain Renault, who was “Shocked, shocked” to find out that there was illicit gambling going on in the bar (but he was able to accept his “winnings” from the croupier with no moral difficulty). Who needs theses clowns? Just let the IOC run things, that’s one group beyond reproach…
But maybe we should just get past it, shrug the whole thing off like so much dandruff, forgive, forget and move on. Ride your bike just for the enjoyment of it.
I’ll be the first to step up to the plate.
But I wonder: is it wrong to ask if I can return my Yellow USPS jersey, with the hole where the IV tube went and the secret pouch, for a couple of those magic tires?
In the last column I mentioned the deleterious effect of grimy brake pads and how to clean them. Ed Rubinstein, your Examiner Cycling in LA columnist, pointed out:
Purloined emery boards work well to sand down brake blocks but then you have to carefully clean each pad with a solvent to remove the abrading material which can get lodged in the brakes and file down your rims. So instead of sand paper or emery boards use a metal file which leaves no material behind.
You know what? He's right on the money. Thanks, Ed.