Of course, I watched the Lance/Oprah interview tonight. There has been a lot written on the subject of Lance and doping and disappointment and cycling and sports “heroes,” so I don’t know what to say that I haven’t already said.
I don’t like him, obviously, but I respected his control of his story and his control of the sport. Respected might be the wrong word, because it doesn’t denote the right kind of awed disgust, but it’s a sort of respect. And, I have little patience for the people who want to denounce him now, when it’s too late, or who want to judge when they’d never be in a position to make those decisions themselves. If you cared that much, you should have been paying attention. The information was always there. [It shouldn’t have been difficult to know Manti Te’o’s girlfriend was fake, but you had to look.] If you cared that much, you shouldn’t participate in the creation of hero mythologies. When we create disproportionate benefits (fame, fortune, admiration) then of course some people will decide the costs are worth it.
The only people I feel truly bad for are those who have been destroyed during the doping cover-ups, those who genuinely are torn apart now by things they have done, and those who actually race ‘clean’ or were forced out of the sport because they opted to race clean or could have made it if they doped. That’s who I feel bad for.
If you’ve been paying attention, nothing in the interview was a surprise. But, it was fascinating.
It was fascinating simply to watch a master of PR at work. It was fascinating to play ‘what is he still lying about,’ because it was obvious (not in a paranoid or obsessive way, but simply in the same way it was obvious that he was doping before he told Oprah — based on facts and reporting and Occam’s Razor and stuff) that he was still lying about some things. He so clearly wanted to control his story, to say ‘yes, I doped because I felt I had to, but no, there aren’t specifics and I didn’t bribe this person and I didn’t dope after this specific year, etc.’
Yes, it was funny when he said ‘To be honest, Oprah, we sued so many people I don’t even…I’m sure we did.’ But, don’t you think a man who was known for his obsessive control of every detail in his life necessary to win, who would remember every journalist who ever said a bad thing about him, don’t you think he would remember who he sued?
He did say that he wouldn’t be sitting here if he hadn’t made the comeback. And, that is definitely true.
In 2008, when he announced his comeback, I wrote a post about how it was a bad choice just from his standpoint, because he was opening back up a can of worms, because he’d get caught and ruin his legacy, because part of being the best is knowing when to quit. I can’t find it; it was on a blog I had to shut down and the posts are buried in an archive on an old computer. But, Steve will attest that I wrote it because he argued extensively with me about it (lots of people argued with me about it).
I feel pretty right about that now.