Lance Armstrong’s Half-Hearted Allocution

Award Winners, Books, Football, Hall Of Fame, History, Media, Players, Politics

Lance Armstrong, as was shown during his cancer diagnosis and treatment, is capable of nobility. It also showed him to be defiant, determined and unwilling to concede any point that conflicted with his controlling nature. Somewhere the lines got crossed and by some arrogant osmosis, Armstrong’s work with his cancer charity and dogged single-minded intensity to confront any challenge with full force morphed into one another and blurred the concept of propriety. He never learned to place those character traits into a positive direction. Like his cancer, it’s a metastasizing entity. Only this one grew so large and extensive that no treatment could control it until it’s eating him alive. The bullheaded “get in my way and I’ll run over you,” is extending to his initial attempt to show contrition for the damage he’s done and it’s a first-ditch/last-ditch effort to salvage whatever he can of his name and reputation.

He doesn’t know that yet. He still thinks he can beat “it.” Whatever “it” is.

Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey was meant to be a mea culpa. Through his years and years of denials that he used performance enhancing drugs, Armstrong held to the story to a remarkable degree. The avalanche of evidence buried him and he’s no longer holding to the story, but the personality is the same. And that’s the problem. The altered perception has gone from one of admiration for his achievements to bewilderment that he’s not even trying to put forth the pretense of truly being sorry.

Armchair psychologists, attorneys, body language experts, judges, juries, and executioners sat and watched the interview with a ready-made analysis to explain what Armstrong was really saying. Behind the words and faux tears (of which there were fewer than any of us could have expected), there was still the calculating and devious mind as to how he was going to get out of this and the egomania to think he still can.

The remorse the interview was clearly intended to convey conflicted with his beady eyes darted back and forth, the look of smug condescension and remaining sediment-filled puddle of, “I’m Lance Armstrong, I’ll figure a way out of this,” that has served him so well over the years and maintained the veneer of innocence that so many believed because they wanted to believe it. Knowing what truly occurs in the world of cycling—that it’s impossible in this day and age to win the Tour de France without using PEDs—interfered with the myth, so it was ignored out of convenience and, in the case of his advertisers and those benefiting from him, money.

The strangest part of the Oprah interview was that Armstrong didn’t even bother to try and alter his tone to suit those on the fence of how to proceed in their view of him. The people who don’t care about cycling; who understand why he did what he did; who may have made similar decisions and are willing to give him the opportunity to redeem himself; who never truly believed him in his declarations of innocence but were willing to forgive what he did in the interests of the good he spread with his charity work.

Serial killer Ted Bundy looked more sorry during his pre-execution apology for the victims he murdered than Armstrong did in that interview.

The fundamental problem isn’t any psychological block or personal failing. It’s that Armstrong’s brain doesn’t work that way. Amid all the excuses, fake humility, admissions and self-deprecating humor, it’s not registering that he’s shifted from one set of intractable principles in overcoming obstacles to another. First it was battling cancer; then it was making his comeback and winning; then it was charity work; then it was lying about his drug use; now it’s telling the truth about his drug use. There’s no comprehension or categorizing of right or wrong anywhere in that list because Armstrong is only able to conceive the right and wrong as it suits him. Right is what benefits Lance; wrong is what hurts Lance.

Lance, Lance, Lance.

He would’ve been better off having had a mirror across from him instead of Oprah. Not to denigrate the job she did because she did ask all the right questions, but she didn’t ask about inside information that a Steve Kroft-type journalist, cycling expert, doctor or attorney would. It was too comfortable a forum to get any legitimate emotion and possibly dig underneath to find out exactly what Armstrong was actually thinking. The interview was so gentle that Oprah was trying to romance the answers out of him rather than dissect him, trap him, and force him to come clean.

I was waiting for Armstrong to reference his “cousin in the D.R.” as Alex Rodriguez did. Or to come up with absurd ridiculousness as Roger Clemens did in his ill-advised publicity blitz on 60 Minutes and in front of the government panel. Maybe he should have just clammed up as Barry Bonds did or acted as if he didn’t speak English like Sammy Sosa.

Armstrong used the word “sick” when describing some of his actions and behaviors during the years of lies. It’s certainly sick. It’s sick that people can relate more to what someone like O.J. Simpson did in a fit of rage and jealousy than what Armstrong did in systematically demolishing people who simply told the truth and dared to cross him by not sticking to the rules of his world.

His world.

That’s the key to Armstrong. It’s all about him. Still clinging to that idea that everything, everywhere is linked to how it affects Lance, he sees it as unfair that he’s banned for life from competing in marathons and triathlons because it’s being done to him. “Why won’t you let me race?” This while ignoring the scores of people he maligned publicly and dragged into court for telling the truth about his drug use.

Like any dictator or self-anointed monarch, if he’d chosen to let one small incursion into his territory go by unpunished, there would be anarchy. So, as a message to those who would try and try again to bring down his empire, he destroyed them. Now he’s “apologizing,” but is not sorry and maintains the stiff-arm against the world thinking he’ll somehow win.

He won’t.

Armstrong showed nobility in his cancer fight. There’s also a nobility in unrepentance. If he’s not sorry, he shouldn’t say he’s sorry. But he did. If he was trying to alter the public perception of him with his half-hearted allocution, he succeeded. He made it worse.

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Lance Armstrong, MLB, Drugs and Confessions of Convenience

Award Winners, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Hall Of Fame, History, Management, Media, PEDs, Players, Politics

Lance Armstrong is preparing to provide what’s been referred to as either a confession or a “limited” confession (whatever that means) to Oprah Winfrey in a televised interview later this week—NY Times Story. In truth, it’s likely to be nominal mea culpa cloaked in semantics just short of asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege to avoid self-incrimination. If he were giving legal testimony, he wouldn’t say a word.

Much like other users of performance enhancing drugs or those who have been accused of behaving in a way that compromised their legacies and flouted the ingrained ground rules of their particular sport, Armstrong is taking the route previously traversed by other notables such as Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Pete Rose. For the most part though, Canseco, McGwire and Rose didn’t go to the lengths that Armstrong did in portraying themselves as clean, innocent victims; nor did they cross the line into threatening accusers and contemporaries with legal action, implied physical violence, loss of employment, tattered reputations and hanging in effigy for merely stating the obvious.

The rumored Armstrong admission is indicative of the inherently egocentric dismissal of long-term consequences on and off the field of play by the physically talented athlete who thinks the ends justify the means and believes that if he’s called to answer for the ends, an apology and feigned contrition will suffice. But Armstrong is somehow worse than the baseball players who made similar public admissions of what they did.

This is not to exonerate Rose, McGwire, Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds or anyone else who was involved in controversies such as PEDs or gambling, but Armstrong’s behaviors extended beyond maintaining his veneer of cleanliness and heroism. He became a champion of altruism, using his story of winning what appeared to be a hopeless fight against cancer and made millions for himself in the process by getting healthy and returning to his sport and again becoming best in the world.

Was his dedication to the Livestrong cause real? Or was it all part of the image he hoped to convey, thereby letting him function with an aura of untouchability in a circular feeding of cancer survivor —> champion cyclist —> generous giver of time and money —> abusive bully that gave him the freedom to behave any way he wanted because of the good things he did counteracting the bad. As distasteful as it is to imply that a person milked having cancer, Armstrong certainly fits the profile. He helped a lot of people, but he harmed a lot of people and made a lot of money while making aggressive denials of drug use.

The baseball people denied what they did hoping it would go away. It didn’t go away. Rose, after his suspension from baseball for gambling, ended up incarcerated in a halfway house for tax evasion. Rose, Canseco and McGwire admitted what they did in one form or another for reasons that were steeped in self-interest.

Canseco wanted vengeance against baseball for, as he believes, blackballing him. In a strange way in spite of the ongoing and somewhat entertaining (check his Twitter account) train wreck his life has become, Canseco deserves accolades for revealing who used PEDs during his time in baseball. Canseco got the ball rolling to at least try to eradicate PED use from the game.

McGwire admitted he used steroids because he wanted to take a job as the Cardinals hitting coach and unless he addressed the issue, he wasn’t going to be capable of doing the job without being a distraction. With the crocodile tears and expressions of regret, it was absurd that he denied PED use until he needed to admit it to have a job in baseball. Once he admitted it though, it went away and he was able to function as a hitting coach for Tony LaRussa and has since moved on to the Dodgers to work in the same capacity. He’s liked by the players and respected in the job.

Rose’s admission was an all-too-late attempt to have his lifetime suspension removed and possibly gain admission to the Hall of Fame. He also wanted to sell a book. Rose (fresh with a new reality show) may care to a certain extent about his enshrinement as a player, but with him the majority of what he’s done in his life has had a foundation in money and wanting to accumulate a lot of it. A Hall of Fame plaque would potentially increase the fees he charges for autographs and appearances. It’s doubtful Rose, at age 71, wants to get into baseball in any on-field capacity, as a front office person or broadcaster. As great and intense a player as Rose was, his known intelligence on the field could be a boon to players as a spring training instructor. The argument as to whether he should be allowed in the Hall of Fame would be dealt with by the voters, but Rose being able to go to a ballpark as a former star wouldn’t harm anyone.

The one thing they all have in common with Armstrong is that none are sorry for what they did, but sorry when it conveniences them to be sorry. Armstrong is different in that he steadfastly denied drug use and utilized an underlying threat of danger if his accusers continued making the assertion that he did use banned drugs to win his Tour de France titles.

Armstrong was a rainmaker. Logically, no one with a brain could have bought the line that out of every person who completed the grueling bicycle race, the only one who did it clean—and won!!!—was Armstrong. It’s not even that he lied so consistently and adamantly, but that he was litigious, nasty and obsessive in bolstering that lie. The real Armstrong was hidden by shady informers, drug dealers, corporate entities, disposable employees, enablers, protectors and interference-runners because Armstrong was necessary. Eventually it got to the level where there was no longer a point in denying it as it became so glaringly obvious that he’s guilty.

Because Armstrong came back from a battle with cancer and became an icon of charitable contributions, it doesn’t automatically free him from being held responsible for what he did. Now, under siege and without choice in admitting his guilt to get on with his life, he’s planning to kindasorta admit his guilt. Armstrong is said to be concerned about criminal charges and with good reason. The linked NY Times piece above says that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is “unlikely” to reopen an investigation into Armstrong for a variety of potential crimes such as fraud, money laundering and drug trafficking. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office avidly pursued perjury charges against Clemens and Bonds knowing that they had little chance at a conviction and even if they got a conviction very little—if any—jail time going to Clemens and Bonds.

What Armstrong is accused of doing is far worse than anything Clemens and Bonds did as they were lying to protect themselves and Armstrong was clinging to an empire he’d built. Armstrong has proven to be narcissistic, greedy and bordering on sociopathic. It’s a good bet (one that Rose would undoubtedly take) that Armstrong is eventually going to wind up doing some jail time for his crimes. He’s going to be broke, will probably write a tell-all book (as Rose did) admitting everything to make himself some quick money to settle lawsuits, pay fines and obliviously think he’ll be able to convince a vast majority of readers that he’s sorry. He doesn’t seem to get that the public simply wants him to go away.

When all is said and done that’s exactly what he’s going to do and not by conscious decision. Instead of choosing to recede into the background, however, it’s going to be in handcuffs with cameras following him, lightbulbs flashing, and news stories of a a fall from grace that was unavoidable from the start, except no one wanted to admit its inevitability. There’s no longer an option. Armstrong’s self-serving “confession” won’t alter the fact that he’s not sorry and doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. The public, media, his fellow athletes and most importantly, the government will see it differently. They will have the final say. In situations such as this, they always do and Armstrong can’t force them to say what he wants them to say anymore.

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Me Too

Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Players

The doctor who wanted and got media exposure for his treatment of Bartolo Colon with stem cells has come out and said that “10 pitchers” have contacted him wanting the same thing that Colon had.

I expect that the prior sentence—“the same thing Colon had”—was the terminology used with probably 2 or 3 concerned or even asking about the side effects, if any.

You can read about the doctor’s statement here on ESPN.com and the original Colon story when I briefly discussed it weeks ago here.

It’s part of the culture of “me too”; of wanting to do what the other guy is doing to hopefully achieve similar success.

This is understandable and a part of the culture of athletes going back forever; so too is it a window into how certain players wound up using steroids when they normally wouldn’t have done so.

As much as he’s reviled, Barry Bonds is one of those players.

Clean and brilliant throughout his career, Bonds had to sit by and watch far inferior players like Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire get the accolades and money from using drugs; he could’ve carried on in his career hoping that one day the truth would come out if he wanted to play clean.

Or he could’ve joined them.

Bonds joined them.

It’s easy to attack Bonds now, but look at it from his position. He was better than the likes of McGwire and Sosa when all were supposedly clean; and once the playing field was level—with the drugs—he again proved he was better. Bonds is a pariah now, but all he was doing was what everyone else was doing; what baseball was complicit in allowing players to do for the self-serving agendas of everyone involved from MLB’s front office on down.

Colon’s treatment is public; the doctor is getting the attention he so desired, presumably a vast clientele and money; again baseball is far behind the curve as to whether or not the treatment falls into the guidelines of floating rules regarding what’s allowed and not.

Can MLB tell players not to get the treatment? And if the Players Association balks at such a decree, what then?

PEDs and controversial treatments will always be a part of any sport because the athletes and formulators of therapies and drugs will continually create new concoctions to circumnavigate the rules.

In certain cases, like Bonds, they make a hard choice.

If Colon hadn’t gotten the stem cell treatment, would he be pitching in the big leagues now?

It’s never going to stop.

Such is the case with Lance Armstrong and the accusations of doping to win the Tour de France.

If you click on the link and watch the 60 Minutes interview with Tyler Hamilton, you can draw your own conclusions. If you’re living in a romantic world where cover stories and crafted images are believed, take Armstrong at his word; if not, indulge in reality.

It’s your choice.

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